Take Time for Internal Reflection

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, MMNS

It is not the quantity, but the quality of time spent attempting to follow the guidance of ALLAH that ensures success.  ALLAH says in Qur’an that “everything is a sign – for those who reflect.”  Each day, if we just take 10 minutes of quiet, quality time in carefully selected thought procedures, we can improve our life by achieving a greater measure of happiness, increased efficiency, and a feeling of spiritual, mental, and physical well-being.

So many things whiz by us each day that it is virtually impossible to reflect while you are on the go.  You will possibly see these “signs of ALLAH”, but not will reflect on them to get the full benefit.  So many miraculous things occur during the course of our going about our daily activities.  They are happening whether you realize it or not.  The key is to first know that ALLAH is in the blessing business and then key in on your blessings by being one of those who “reflect” on the signs of ALLAH.

This 10 minute formula I am sharing with you has been proven scientifically over time and it is right in sync with the ALLAH’S word to “reflect.”  The plan is to spend the 10 minutes every day in quiet submission.  It must be regular.  To do it for a day or two and then skip a day or two will lessen the impact on the results.

ALLAH is real, and He will guide you as you submit your mind to His.  Don’t go into this process with the idea “I want to do this—or do that.  Instead, wait on an answer to enter your mind.  You have now made your mind susceptible to Divine wisdom.

This is in the same vein as the Istikara prayer Muslims say in the early reaches of the night.  The difference is, in the istakara prayer, we ask ALLAH to examine our particular situation.  It may be a particular relationship or maybe a career move or something similar.  We make two rakah and ask ALLAH to make it easy and possible to attain— if it is right for us.  If it is not right for us, we ask Him to remove it from us.  Istakara is a powerful tool of connection and help from ALLAH.

This time of reflection is also special because we stop what we are doing, go to a quiet place with no distractions and wait for thoughts to enter your mind.  They might not be what you expect or even what you want.  They may be far from what we are accustomed to thinking.  But if you are a believer and have submitted yourself to be an instrument of ALLAH, you will be on a higher wavelength of righteousness in which there is no error. The time can vary.  It may be before salat or after salat—or an hour or so after salat. It doesn’t matter.  The main thing is quietness, relaxation, and submission of your mind to ALLAH.

There are many tools and avenues to connect spiritually to our Creator.  This is only one.  Sometimes while offering salat, solutions and answers come to our minds.  I take it as ALLAH choosing a time to communicate with me.  Some people think they are sinning if your mind wanders during salat.  But it is not necessarily so.  It depends on what your mind is wandering to.

This human mind we have is special and it has a special way of communicating with its Maker.  Reflect on the “Signs” of ALLAH.  You will be richer for it.

As Salaam alaikum
(Al Hajj) Imam Abdullah El-Amin

12-20

Why Do I Want to be a Journalist?

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s note:  The TMO Foundation conducted a scholarship essay contest and TMO is now printing the essays of some of the entrants to the contest.

This is the second place essay, by Aysha Jamali, on the subject “Why do I want to be a journalist?” She received Second Prize, a $1,000 scholarship.

By Aysha Jamali

Aysha Jamali-photo A journalist strives, researches, listens and educates. A journalist’s role is vast and has been a necessary ingredient in society throughout the history of the world. Media influences what we know about the world around us, how we form our opinions on issues and which issues are the most important to us. A journalist’s responsibility is to report with the intention of being honest and fair in representing what goes on in the world. That is my interest: to uphold the duties of media’s mediators.

Wickham Steed, an editor of The Times of London, said that journalism is “something more than a craft, something other than an industry, something between art and a ministry.” It’s a field that requires skill and creativity, but it also requires a sense of obligation to the people. And there are several obligations.

One obligation of the journalist is to keep a check on those in power. Governments and corporate organizations are often in a position to abuse their power. They serve the larger population, but are often run by a smaller elite circle. “Melvin Mencher’s News Reporting and Writing” says that “democracy is the healthiest when the public is informed about the activities of captains of industry and chieftains in public office.” It is the journalist’s responsibility to scrutinize those captains and chieftains in the elite circle, so that the common people can have a say in their policies and the actions affecting them.

Journalists also look out for those who can’t look out for themselves. The minority always needs a spokesperson whether it’s a daughter who lost her father because of hospital malpractice, a school in a low-income district with no money for textbooks, or hundreds of upset and recently unemployed workers from a billion dollar company.

A journalist’s responsibility is also to provide the public with unbiased information on current issues. A decision is so difficult to make when both sides are white-washing and sugar-coating the truth. Journalists are there to investigate and determine accurate from inaccurate. They provide not only facts but the scoop behind the facts. Journalist T. D. Allman said, “Genuinely objective journalism not only gets the facts right, it gets the meaning of events right.” It’s with this type of fact-finding that people can make rational decisions.

Another role of the journalist is to bring to concern issues that are otherwise not discussed. In the book “Don’t Shoot the Messenger,” Bruce W. Sanford said that “most people would not see that they were being denied information about the world around them.” This requires the journalist to hunt for these hidden stories, and it can put the journalist at odds with bosses and peers. Stepping away from the mainstream is difficult but something a journalist should remember is often an obligation.

My background has taught me about the need for such responsibilities. My family and my Islamic faith have taught me that judging others is the wrong path to take since you don’t always know the whole story. I learned that what you hear is not always the truth, so you need to stay skeptical. I learned that there is always another opinion about a situation, so you need to stay open-minded. It’s because of this that I read about a war, a robbery or a movie release and I want to know what else is there that the media isn’t telling me. Did those people really initiate the shooting? Was that person trying to feed his family with the stolen money? Is this actor passionate about his role in the movie?

Beyond finding out the truth, I want to share the new ideas and incidents I discover. My question is always: why didn’t I know this before and why isn’t anyone spreading this around? I love a chance to sit down and hash out the day’s news. I relish the idea of communicating information to get myself and other people to think in different ways. It’s my inquisitive attitude and my itch to share information that attracted me to journalism.

Getting people to think in different ways is also a significant reason to have a diverse media. You can’t have variation if everyone thinks the same way. In “Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite,” Bernard Goldberg said, “It’s past time that we moved from a newsroom that simply looks like America to one that thinks like America – a newsroom that better reflects America in its highly varied beliefs and values and passions.”  A diversified newsroom is an atmosphere that permits the contribution of unique experiences and attitudes.

Media diversity is also important for avoiding cultural taboos and clearing up misconceptions. This brings to the mind the controversial shooting of Luqman Ameen Abdullah, imam of a local Detroit mosque. Local news stations reported on broadcast and on their Web sites that he was the ringleader of a group called the “Ummah.” Actually, all Muslims consider themselves to be a part of an ummah, which is an Arabic word roughly translated as community. It’s similar to Christians belonging to a church community. The mainstream media failed to clarify whether Imam Abdullah’s “Ummah” was just confused with the general concept of the Muslim ummah. If there were more people with that type of knowledge and background present in the newsroom, then confusions like that wouldn’t happen as often. When there’s less confusion in the media, the public is getting accurate information and putting its trust back in its sources.

The need to keep a check on bias by representing all sides of a story is also a reason why the media should be diverse. It only makes sense for the media to be as diverse as the people and the views they are representing. With the melting-pot that is the United States, we should be seeing people of all backgrounds in our media. In “Arrogance,” Goldberg said that “despite the overwhelming evidence, despite all the examples of bias that were documented in my book and others, despite the surveys that show that large numbers of Americans consider the elite media too liberal … the elite remains in denial.” Diversity breaks down that elite circle to allow for proper representation.

These roles are a part of the backbone that holds up a journalist as someone who strives, researches, listens and educates. I believe it should be every journalist’s goal to uphold the field’s values. I hope to make my career as a journalist by internalizing these values. I hope to use my Muslim identity and first generation immigrant background in striving for fair media representation through diversity. This should be the journalist’s drive. This is my drive.

12-17

U.S. Soldier on 2007 Apache Attack: What I Saw

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kim Zetter Email Author , Wired Magazine

centcom-screenshot

Ethan McCord had just returned from dropping his children at school earlier this month, when he turned on the TV news to see grainy black-and-white video footage of a soldier running from a bombed-out van with a child in his arms. It was a scene that had played repeatedly in his mind the last three years, and he knew exactly who the soldier was.

In July 2007, McCord, a 33-year-old Army specialist, was engaged in a firefight with insurgents in an Iraqi suburb when his platoon, part of Bravo Company, 2-16 Infantry, got orders to investigate a nearby street. When they arrived, they found a scene of fresh carnage – the scattered remains of a group of men, believed to be armed, who had just been gunned down by Apache attack helicopters. They also found 10-year-old Sajad Mutashar and his five-year-old sister Doaha covered in blood in a van. Their 43-year-old father, Saleh, had been driving them to a class when he spotted one of the wounded men moving in the street and drove over to help him, only to become a victim of the Apache guns.

McCord was captured in a video shot from one helicopter as he ran frantically to a military vehicle with Sajad in his arms seeking medical care. That classified video created its own firestorm when the whistleblower site Wikileaks posted it April 5 on a website titled “Collateral Murder” and asserted that the attack was unprovoked. More than a dozen people were killed in three attacks captured in the video, including two Reuters journalists, one carrying a camera that was apparently mistaken for a weapon.

McCord, who served seven years in the military before leaving in the summer of 2009 due to injuries, recently posted an apologetic letter online with fellow soldier Josh Steiber supporting the release of the video and asking the family’s forgiveness. McCord is the father of three children.

Wired’s Kim Zetter reached McCord at his home in Kansas. This is his account of what he saw.

Wired.com: At the time you arrived on the scene, you didn’t know what had happened, is that right?

Ethan McCord: Right. We were engaged in our own conflict roughly about three or four blocks away. We heard the gunships open up. [Then] we were just told … to move to this [other] location. It was pretty much a shock when we got there to see what had happened, the carnage and everything else.

Wired.com: But you had been in combat before. It shouldn’t have surprised you what you saw.

McCord: I have never seen anybody being shot by a 30-millimeter round before. It didn’t seem real, in the sense that it didn’t look like human beings. They were destroyed.

Wired.com: Was anyone moving when you got there other than the two children?

McCord: There were approximately two to three other people who were moving who were still somewhat alive, and the medics were attending to them.

Wired.com: The first thing you saw was the little girl in the van. She had a stomach wound?

McCord: She had a stomach wound and she had glass in her eyes and in her hair. She was crying. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I went to the van immediately, because I could hear her crying. It wasn’t like a cry of pain really. It was more of a child who was frightened out of her mind. And the next thing I saw was the boy…. He was kind of sitting on the floorboard of the van, but with his head laying on the bench seat in the front. And then the father, who I’m assuming was the father, in the driver’s seat slumped over on his side. Just from looking into the van, and the amount of blood that was on the boy and the father, I immediately figured they were dead.

So, the first thing I did was grab the girl. I grabbed the medic and we went into the back. There’s houses behind where the van was. We took her in there and we’re checking to see if there were any other wounds. You can hear the medic saying on the video, “There’s nothing I can do here, she needs to be evac’d.” He runs the girl to the Bradley. I went back outside to the van, and that’s when the boy took, like, a labored, breath. That’s when I started screaming, “The boy’s alive! The boy’s alive!” And I picked him up and started running with him over to the Bradley. He opened his eyes when I was carrying him. I just kept telling him, “Don’t die; don’t die.” He looked at me, then his eyes rolled back into this head.

Then I got yelled at by my platoon leader that I needed to stop trying to save these mf’n kids and go pull security…. I was told to go pull security on a rooftop. When we were on that roof, we were still taking fire. There were some people taking pot shots, sniper shots, at us on the rooftop. We were probably there on the roof for another four to five hours.

Wired.com: How much sniper fire were you getting?

McCord: It was random sporadic spurts. I did see a guy … moving from a rooftop from one position to another with an AK-47, who was firing at us. He was shot and killed.

After the incident, we went back to the FOB [forward operating base] and that’s when I was in my room. I had blood all down the front of me from the children. I was trying to wash it off in my room. I was pretty distraught over the whole situation with the children. So I went to a sergeant and asked to see [the mental health person], because I was having a hard time dealing with it. I was called a pussy and that I needed to suck it up and a lot of other horrible things. I was also told that there would be repercussions if I was to go to mental health.

Wired.com: What did you understand that to mean?

McCord: I would be smoked. Smoked is basically like you’re doing pushups a lot, you’re doing sit-ups … crunches and flutter kicks. They’re smoking you, they’re making you tired. I was told that I needed to get the sand out of my vagina…. So I just sucked it up and tried to move on with everything.

I’ve lived with seeing the children that way since the incident happened. I’ve had nightmares. I was diagnosed with chronic, severe PTSD. [But] I was actually starting to get kind of better. … I wasn’t thinking about it as much. [Then I] took my children to school one day and I came home and sat down on the couch and turned on the TV with my coffee, and on the news I’m running across the screen with a child. The flood of emotions came back. I know the scene by heart; it’s burned into my head. I know the van, I know the faces of everybody that was there that day.

Wired.com: Did you try to get information about the two children after the shooting?

McCord: My platoon sergeant knew that I was having a hard time with it and that same night … he came into the room and he told me, hey, just so you know, both of the children survived, so you can suck it up now. I didn’t know if he was telling me that just to get me to shut up and to do my job or if he really found something out. I always questioned it in the back of my mind.

I did see a video on YouTube after the Wikileaks came out, of the children being interviewed. … When I saw their faces, I was relieved, but I was just heartbroken. I have a huge place in my heart for children, having some of my own. Knowing that I was part of the system that took their father away from them and made them lose their house … it’s heartbreaking. And that in turn is what helped me and Josh write the letter, hoping that it would find its way to them to let them know that we’re sorry. We’re sorry for the system that we were involved in that took their father’s life and injured them. If there’s anything I can to do help, I would be more than happy to.

Wired.com: Wikileaks presented the incident as though there was no engagement from insurgents. But you guys did have a firefight a couple of blocks away. Was it reasonable for the Apache soldiers to think that maybe the people they attacked were part of that insurgent firefight?

McCord: I doubt that they were a part of that firefight. However, when I did come up on the scene, there was an RPG as well as AK-47s there…. You just don’t walk around with an RPG in Iraq, especially three blocks away from a firefight…. Personally, I believe the first attack on the group standing by the wall was appropriate, was warranted by the rules of engagement. They did have weapons there. However, I don’t feel that the attack on the [rescue] van was necessary.

Now, as far as rules of engagement, [Iraqis] are not supposed to pick up the wounded. But they could have been easily deterred from doing what they were doing by just firing simply a few warning shots in the direction…. Instead, the Apaches decided to completely obliterate everybody in the van. That’s the hard part to swallow.

And where the soldier said [in the video], “Well, you shouldn’t take your kids to battle.” Well in all actuality, we brought the battle to your kids. There’s no front lines here. This is urban combat and we’re taking the war to children and women and innocents.

There were plenty of times in the past where other insurgents would come by and pick up the bodies, and then we’d have no evidence or anything to what happened, so in looking at it from the Apache’s point of view, they were thinking that [someone was] picking up the weapons and bodies; when, in hindsight, clearly they were picking up the wounded man. But you’re not supposed to do that in Iraq.

Wired.com: Civilians are supposed to know that they’re not supposed to pick up a wounded person crawling in the road?

McCord: Yeah. This is the problem that we’re speaking out on as far as the rules of engagement. How is this guy supposed to [decide] should I stop and pick them up, or is the military going to shoot me? If you or I saw someone wounded on the ground what is your first inkling? I’m going to help that person.

Wired.com: There was another attack depicted in the video that has received little attention, involving a Hellfire and a building that was fired on.

McCord: I wasn’t around that building when it happened. I was up on a rooftop at that time. However, I do know some soldiers went in to clear that building afterwards and there were some people with weapons in there, but there was also a family of four that was killed.

I think that a Hellfire missile is a little much to put into a building…. They’re trained as soldiers to go into a building and clear a building. I do know that there was a teenage girl [in there], just because I saw the pictures when I was there, that one of the soldiers took.

Wired.com: Have you heard from any other soldiers since the video came out?

McCord: I’ve spoken with one of the medics who was there. He’s no longer in the Army. When this video first came out, there was a lot of outrage by the soldiers, just because it depicted us as being callous, cruel, heartless people, and we’re not that way. The majority of us aren’t. And so he was pretty upset about the whole thing…. He kept saying, we were there, we know the truth, they’re saying there was no weapons, there was.

I’ve spoken with other soldiers who were there. Some of them [say] I don’t care what anybody says … they’re not there. … There’s also some soldiers who joke about it [as a] coping mechanism. They’re like, oh yeah, we’re the “collateral murder” company. I don’t think that [the] big picture is whether or not [the Iraqis who were killed] had weapons. I think that the bigger picture is what are we doing there? We’ve been there for so long now and it seems like nothing is being accomplished whatsoever, except for we’re making more people hate us.

Wired.com: Do you support Wikileaks in releasing this video?

McCord: When it was first released I don’t think it was done in the best manner that it could have been. They were stating that these people had no weapons whatsoever, that they were just carrying cameras. In the video, you can clearly see that they did have weapons … to the trained eye. You can make out in the video [someone] carrying an AK-47, swinging it down by his legs….

And as far as the way that the soldiers are speaking in the video, which is pretty callous and joking about what’s happened … that’s a coping mechanism. I’m guilty of it, too, myself. You joke about the situations and what’s happened to push away your true feelings of the matter.

There’s no easy way to kill somebody. You don’t just take somebody’s life and then go on about your business for the rest of the day. That stays with you. And cracking jokes is a way of pushing that stuff down. That’s why so many soldiers come back home and they’re no longer in the situations where they have other things to think about or other people to joke about what happened … and they explode.

I don’t say that Wikileaks did a bad thing, because they didn’t…. I think it is good that they’re putting this stuff out there. I don’t think that people really want to see this, though, because this is war…. It’s very disturbing.

Image: U.S. Central Command

12-17

Community News (V12-I14)

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Shah R. Ali Receives Soros Fellowship

679E This is a second in our continuing series on profiles of young Muslim American achievers who are recipients of 2010 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. 

Shah R. Ali came to the USA  from Pakistan at the age of 10. He quickly adapted to life in New Jersey and excelled in math and science: he spent two summers doing research in chemistry at New York University. He graduated summa cum laude in three years from the Honors College at the Newark campus of Rutgers University, where he spent additional years on a nanotechnology project to detect dopamine for potential diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. His work led to several first- and second-author publications in Journal of the American Chemical Society and Analytical Chemistry, among others.

Now 25, and a second-year medical student at Stanford University, Shah is working in the lab of Irving Weissman, where he is studying cardiogenesis using embryonic stem cells. He has recently become interested in neglected tropical diseases: in addition to helping organize a conference at Stanford Law School on access and drug development for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), he is leading the Stanford chapter of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines and a related lecture series. He has also interned at the Institute for OneWorld Health. He hopes to dedicate his career to drug development for NTDs.

St. Cloud rally in support of Muslim students

ST.CLOUD,MN–A rally was held on Monday in support of Muslim students who attend St.Cloud schools. About thirty people showed up.

The St. Cloud Times reported on Monday that the group claimed that school staff members are not doing enough to keep Muslim students from being harassed and sometimes contribute to it.

The rally crowd Monday was mostly adults. They chanted and held signs that said “Discrimination is intolerable” or “St. Cloud school district must integrate” among other things.

Superintendent Steve Jordahl says the staff responds appropriately to each complaint and denies that staff members aren’t doing enough to stop harassment of Muslim students.

A Muslim civil rights group in Minnesota has called for a federal probe of harassment complaints at two St. Cloud schools.

Kamran Pasha speaks at Islam Awareness Week

BOSTON, MA–Boston University’s Islam Society celebrated the second day of Islam Awareness Week Hollywood- style.

Screenwriter, director and writer Kamran Pasha detailed his experiences and challenges as one of the first Muslim-Americans in the film and publishing industries at the Islam Society’s “Lights, Camera, Islam! The Story of a Muslim in Hollywood,” the Daily Free Press reported.

He encouraged the audience to pursue diverse careers which can be fulfilling.

College of Arts and Sciences junior and Islamic Society President Hassan Awaisi said he really appreciated that Pasha encouraged members of the Muslim community to pursue fields that are viewed by Muslim society as “unconventional” and insecure.

“He encouraged everyone to see they can be a devout and practicing Muslim by using their talents to serve God through arts, film and music,” he said. “By sharing personal stories, Pasha allowed people to identify with him and revealed issues many Muslims are dealing with such as inferiority and modernization.”

New mosque opens in Highland

HIGHLAND, IN–The Illiana Islamic Association opened a new 24,000 square foot facility in Highland. The Muslim community now comprises of around 150 families. They earlier used to rent places for worship.

Iman Mongy Elquesny, of the Northwest Indiana Islamic Center in Merrilville, reminded the congregation that with the new facility also comes responsibility.

“Don’t think you’re done now,” he said, smiling. “Today is the beginning because today, you have exposed yourself. You’ll be asked to visit places and have people visit you.”

The leadership of the mosque thanked the township for their cooperation in securing the facility.

Muslim Students Bring Food, Conversation to Florida Homeless

By Imran Siddiqui, Voice of America

In the southern U.S. state of Florida, a group of American Muslim students is running a non-profit organization called Project Downtown.  The project’s goal is to help the poor, poor people of all backgrounds and cultures.  Our correspondent went down to the city of Tampa, Florida to learn more about Project Downtown and the Muslim students who belong to it.

Like just about any major city in the United States, the city of Tampa has its share of homeless people.  But it also has people who are reaching out to help Tampa’s homeless. 

“We are here because, in Islam, we are supposed to feed the hungry,” said one of the students. “So that’s our purpose here.  That’s all.”

The students belong to Project Downtown, an organization that started about two years ago in Miami and now has branches other U.S. cities.  The Tampa members of Project Downtown say what motivated them was seeing people in need.

“Project Downtown was started by a couple of groups and a couple of university students back in Miami, and people have been gathering money after seeing a problem in the community, went out and bought sandwiches,” said another student. “They went to the local city hall and started feeding.”

The city of Tampa has almost 350,000 people.  It is estimated that about 11,000 of these are homeless.  That’s about three percent of the population.  For the students of Project Downtown, the religion of the people they are helping does not matter.  What matters is that they are in need.  Jill Moreida is a member of Project Downturn.

“We come up to them,” said Jill Moreida. “We don’t just give them food and walk away.  We don’t feed them like they’re at the zoo.  We make friends with them; we talk with them.  We interact with them.  Week after week after week.  And we know stories about their family.  We know when they’re sick.  We get to develop relationships with them.”

“Oh, we wait for them!  We wait!  You see, we waited in the rain,” said a homeless man. “We got caught in the rain!   We feel beautiful with them coming.”

As the relationships develop, Jill says, the homeless gain a new understanding of Islam.

“They say they cannot believe how amazing the Muslims are,” said Moreida. “And it’s acts like that, that not only are we serving…we do it for the sake of Allah, when we’re feeding them.  But there’s a bigger message being brought, and it’s exposing a whole new realm of people to Islam.  Teaching them to not be afraid of us, to not have that stereotype that we’re going to hurt them or anything.”

Project Downtown is one of several outreach efforts sponsored by the Muslim community of Florida.  Its funding comes from other Muslim groups in the state, including the Tampa Bay Muslim Alliance.  Dr. Hussein Nagamiya, a cardiologist, is head of the alliance.

“Our main idea is to feed the hungry, to clothe the poor, to address their needs, because these are homeless people, and they don’t have anywhere to go,” said Hussein Nagamiya. “So, we give them conveyances such as bicycles that were given away.  We conduct their [medical] tests.  Some of them may never have a test in the entire year.  We detect diseases for them and send them on to free clinics, etc.” 

In addition to helping the poor and teaching people about Islam, organizations like Project Downtown and the Tampa Bay Muslim Alliance hope to achieve another goal: Showing their fellow Americans that, in the words of Dr. Nagamiya, the vast majority of American Muslims are good citizens who make positive contributions to the United States.  (Courtesy: Voice of America)

12-14

Warren Buffett’s Investment Advice for You

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Buffett Says Consumer Behavior May Be Forever Changed by Recession

By Katie Escherich and Bianna Golodryga

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett believes that the U.S. will emerge from the current economic recession “stronger than ever,” but he said the behavior of the American consumer may be forever changed.

“We were on a binge before,” the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway told “Good Morning America” in an exclusive interview. “I mean, we are not saving extraordinary sums now but the savings behavior has changed. … I don’t necessarily think that we will go back to behaving the way that we were two years ago.”

The man known as the “Oracle from Omaha” because of his history of successful investments, shared his top three pieces of advice for average Americans who want to grow their savings and keep their money safe.

Number one: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Number two: “Always look at how much the other guy is making if he is trying to sell you something.”

Number three: Don’t go into debt.

“Stay away from leverage,” he said. “Nobody ever goes broke that doesn’t owe money.”

The “binge,” he said, was fueled largely by over-borrowing by both individuals and companies.

“The U.S. public as a whole has gotten into problems from leverage, financial institutions have gotten into problems through leverage,” he said. “A long, long time ago a friend said to me about leverage, ‘If you’re smart you don’t need it, and if you’re dumb, you got no business using it.’”

At a time when many college graduates face uncertain futures and are struggling to find jobs, Buffett said he still believes that “investing in yourself is the best thing you can do. Anything that improves your own talents. And I always advise students to do that, high school students, college students and obviously investing in your children is, in some ways, investing in yourself.”

No matter what happens in the economy, “if you have true talent yourself, and you have maximized your talent, you have a terrific asset.”

Warren Buffett on Budget Deficit

Buffett showed some support for the idea of a second economic stimulus package, but cautioned that it should be handled differently to restore the American public’s confidence.

The number of earmarks included in the bill were “part of what has affected the American psyche,” he said. “When we go on and we talk about earmarks and that sort of thing, and then we get the kind of behavior we’ve got, I mean, that is not reassuring to the American public.”

He called the first stimulus “like taking half a tablet of Viagra and having also a bunch of candy mixed in, you know, as if everybody was putting in enough for their own constituents.”

He also cautioned that the American public will have to be patient and give the economy time to recover, particularly when it comes to the surplus of houses on the market that resulted from overbuilding.

“The American public will get disappointed, but it is going to take time to work through the overhang of houses, for example,” he said. “You can’t cure that in a day or a week or a month, so a stimulus doesn’t cure that.”

Buffett also expressed confidence in Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, and dismissed rumors that the Fed chief may not return once his current term is up at the end of the year.

“Well, I think he should keep his job,” he said. “And as to what people say, well they are going to say something, they have always talked about Fed chairmen when their terms are coming up. But taking Bernanke out of the lineup would be like if you had the Ryder Cup, taking Tiger Woods out of it. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Buffett acknowledged that the actions taken by the government will lead to an even bigger budget deficit. “It will happen and I worry about it, but I would worry more if we weren’t doing anything right now.”

He compared the current situation to “a friend that is sinking in quicksand.”

“You throw them a rope and they tie it around themselves and a car pulls them out, they may dislocate a couple of shoulders but it’s still the right thing to do. And we are doing things which will have negative consequences down the road, but they are still the right thing to do to get us out of this particular economic quicksand that we are in.”

Warren Buffett on Health Care Reform

Asked if he agreed with President Obama that passing health care reform would help limit the ballooning budget deficit, Buffett replied, “I really don’t think that I’m an expert on health care,” but said the system needs to be drastically changed.

“I think it’s a moral imperative that everybody have access to health care,” he said. “It’s a terrible problem.”

Despite the pressing economic concerns, he said he would be in favor of the government devoting resources to devising a plan for health care reform “if there’s a well-thought-out program that actually promises to bring down the cost of health care.”

“We are spending 2 trillion plus on health care a year,” he said. “If we could come up with something that even maintains the present cost and promises not to have a greater-than-inflation rate of gain in the future, and brings health care to the people that aren’t getting it now, then I think that will be a huge improvement. I don’t think that is an easy task.”

In anyone’s lifetime, “you will see many recessions, some bubbles,” he said, but he’s optimistic about the future.

“If we sat down here [at the] start of the 20th century, and I said there is going to be the panic of 1907, there is going to be a world war. It will be followed by a Great Depression with 35 percent unemployment, and then we will have another war that it looks like we are going to lose, and then we are going to have a nuclear bomb like no one has ever seen … by the time I got through, you’d be crying. But the Dow went from 66 to 11,497 during that same century, and the average person’s standard of living went up 7 to 1. We have a system that unleashes human potential like nobody has ever seen, and it has done it in the past, it will do it in the future. So I’m a huge bull on America — it does let people like you and me do far more than we could have done 200 years ago.”

12-10

The Drone Wars

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Tom Engelhardt

Almost every day, reports come back from the CIA’s “secret” battlefield in the Pakistani tribal borderlands. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles—that is, pilot-less drones—shoot missiles (18 of them in a single attack on a tiny village last week) or drop bombs and then the news comes in: a certain number of al-Qaeda or Taliban leaders or suspected Arab or Uzbek or Afghan “militants” have died. The numbers are often remarkably precise. Sometimes they are attributed to U.S. sources, sometimes to the Pakistanis; sometimes, it’s hard to tell where the information comes from. In the Pakistani press, on the other hand, the numbers that come back are usually of civilian dead. They, too, tend to be precise.

Don’t let that precision fool you. Here’s the reality: There are no reporters on the ground and none of these figures can be taken as accurate. Let’s just consider the CIA side of things. Any information that comes from American sources (i.e. the CIA) has to be looked at with great wariness. As a start, the CIA’s history is one of deception. There’s no reason to take anything its sources say at face value. They will report just what they think it’s in their interest to report—and the ongoing “success” of their drone strikes is distinctly in their interest.

Then, there’s history. In the present drone wars, as in the CIA’s bloody Phoenix Program in the Vietnam era, the Agency’s operatives, working in distinctly alien terrain, must rely on local sources (or possibly official Pakistani ones) for targeting intelligence. In Vietnam in the 1960s, the Agency’s Phoenix Program—reportedly responsible for the assassination of 20,000 Vietnamese—became, according to historian Marilyn Young, “an extortionist’s paradise, with payoffs as available for denunciation as for protection.” Once again, the CIA is reportedly passing out bags of money and anyone on the ground with a grudge, or the desire to eliminate an enemy, or simply the desire to make some of that money can undoubtedly feed information into the system, watch the drones do their damnedest, and then report back that more “terrorists” are dead. Just assume that at least some of those “militants” dying in Pakistan, and possibly many of them, aren’t who the CIA hopes they are.

Think of it as a foolproof situation, with an emphasis on the “fool.” And then keep in mind that, in December, the CIA’s local brain trust, undoubtedly the same people who were leaking precise news of “successes” in Pakistan, mistook a jihadist double agent from Jordan for an agent of theirs, gathered at an Agency base in Khost, Afghanistan, and let him wipe them out with a suicide bomb. Seven CIA operatives died, including the base chief. This should give us a grim clue as to the accuracy of the CIA’s insights into what’s happening on the ground in Pakistan, or into the real effects of their 24/7 robotic assassination program.

But there’s a deeper, more dangerous level of deception in Washington’s widening war in the region: self-deception. The CIA drone program, which the Agency’s Director Leon Panetta has called “the only game in town” when it comes to dismantling al-Qaeda, is just symptomatic of such self-deception. While the CIA and the U.S. military have been expending enormous effort studying the Afghan and Pakistani situations and consulting experts, and while the White House has conducted an extensive series of seminars-cum-policy-debates on both countries, you can count on one thing: none of them have spent significant time studying or thinking about us.

As a result, the seeming cleanliness and effectiveness of the drone-war solution undoubtedly only reinforces a sense in Washington that the world’s last great military power can still control this war—that it can organize, order, prod, wheedle, and bribe both the Afghans and Pakistanis into doing what’s best, and if that doesn’t work, simply continue raining down the missiles and bombs. Beware Washington’s deep-seated belief that it controls events; that it is, however precariously, in the saddle; that, as Afghan War commander General Stanley McChrystal recently put it, there is a “corner” to “turn” out there, even if we haven’t quite turned it yet.

In fact, Washington is not in the saddle and that corner, if there, if turned, will have its own unpleasant surprises. Washington is, in this sense, as oblivious as those CIA operatives were as they waited for “their” Jordanian agent to give them supposedly vital information on the al-Qaeda leadership in the Pakistani tribal areas. Like their drones, the Americans in charge of this war are desperately far from the ground, and they don’t even seem to know it.

It’s time for Washington to examine not what we know about them, but what we don’t know about ourselves.

Tom Engelhardt runs the Nation Institute’s Tomdispatch.com. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture and coeditor of History Wars, the Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past.

12-7

Hojjaj Party at Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center (BMUC)

January 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

P1108645 Bloomfield–January 10–Many Muslims made the hajj pilgrimage this year from the Southeast Michigan region, and so the Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center had a party this past Sunday night to celebrate their noble accomplishment.

About 150 people were present at the function which was in mood more spiritual than most of the other functions at the center.  The marks of hajj were in fact visible on some of the attendees, many of whom had shaved their heads at the end of the hajj and were still growing back their hair.

Imam Musa explained to TMO that “This year there were less people because of swine flu.”

BMUC presented small token gifts to about 10 people who recently came back from hajj, and a slide show played through the event, showing familiar faces and familiar places that one might not have seen together before, like Imam Musa on Arafat for example.

The Hojjaj party gave a chance for each of the hojjaj to present a few brief words either of advice, of admiration for having made hajj, or of lessons learned from making the hajj.

P1108646 One piece of advice was to make the hajj while one is still young because in fact it is a demanding exercise.

Many of the returning hojjaj remarked that they didn’t feel the exhaustion from the trip until after their return to home, because of having been so overwhelmed with fascination during their trip.

“Don’t stay away too long from this place,” advised one returnee.  “Come back in a year or two.”

One man said, “It is very hard to explain the feeling of seeing the Kaaba for the first time–it is something that comes from the heart.”

One returnee was moved to tears, and said “I was amazed what Prophet (s) did for all of us.”

The Unity Center will have an umra trip early this April.

12-3

Compassion Changed Robber’s Life

December 10, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Evan Buxbaum, CNN

Mohammad Sohail
Long Island Shopkeeper Mohammad Sohail

December 3, 2009 http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/12/03/convenience.store.compassion/index.html

Shopkeeper Mohammad Sohail says he recited an Islamic oath over the would-be robber after he broke into sobs.

New York (CNN) — Six months ago, a Long Island convenience store owner turned a would-be robbery into an act of compassion. On Wednesday, the shoplifter made amends with a $50 bill and a thank you letter for saving him from a life of crime.

The story began in May 2009, when Mohammad Sohail of Shirley, New York, was closing his Shirley Express convenience store one night. Security camera footage from that evening shows a man wielding a baseball bat barging into the store and demanding money.

Sohail had a rifle ready and quickly aimed it directly in the robber’s face, forcing the man to drop the bat and lay on the ground. Unbeknownst to the man, Sohail never loads his gun.

According to Sohail, the man immediately started to plead with him, tearfully saying, “I’m sorry, I have no food. I have no money. My whole family is hungry. Don’t call the police. Don’t shoot me.”

“When I see him starting crying [those] things, I really feel bad for him,” said Sohail. “I say, oh man, this is something different.”

Sohail made the man pledge never to rob anybody ever again, then gave the man $40 and a loaf bread. Sohail, who is from Pakistan, said the man then wanted to be a Muslim like him, so he recited an Islamic oath and gave the would-be robber the name Nawaz Sharif Zardari.

Sohail went to get some milk, but when he returned the man had fled with the money and food.

Both Mohammad Sohail and Suffolk County Police have no idea who the man is. After the May incident, Sohail explained that he will “absolutely not” be pressing charges, though police are still investigating the case.

Over the past six months, Sohail’s story of sympathy and kindness has inspired many across the country.

The Shirley Express store has received numerous letters of admiration. “No person has ever moved my spirit the way you did. From your biggest admirer,” one letter says. “Great men are capable of great acts. You are a great American,” another reads.

He has also received several checks with such messages for “a couple hundred dollars” in total, says Sohail. He has made a point to give this money “to the people” by offering free bagels, rolls and coffee in his store every night after 9 o’clock.

But the envelope that arrived on Wednesday came as a surprise. Postmarked November 11 without a return address, it enclosed a $50 bill and a note apparently from the would-be robber.

The typed letter begins, “You change My Life (sic),” and goes on to say that the man is sorry for his actions six months ago.

“At the time I had No money No food on my table No Job, and nothing for my family. I know that it was wrong, but I had know (sic) choice. I needed to feed My family. When You had That gun to my head I was 100% that I was going to die,” reads the letter.

The letter says Sohail’s acts inspired him to become a “True Muslim” and that his life has changed dramatically.

“I’m very happy that somebody got to change his life,” Sohail said. “If he is a maybe criminal, maybe is not anymore. So now he is a good person in this community and I’m very glad for that. He’s staying out of trouble, he’s not in a jail, he’s taking care of his family.”

But the letter-writer said he actually did convert, “decided to become a true Muslim,” and turned his life around after Sohail, 47, spared his life.

The letter was signed in type: “Your Muslim Brother.”

“That’s the same guy I gave $40 to,” said Sohail, 62, displaying the typewritten letter at his Shirley Express deli yesterday. There was no return address. It was mailed on Long Island the week before Thanksgiving.

“I’m really thrilled,” said Sohail. “I’m very happy for that guy, because he is now doing good for the community.

“He has a job and he is a good person. I really feel great. Thank God he’s doing good. He’s got a new baby and he’s not in jail,” said Sohail.

11-51

An Open Letter to President Obama from Michael Moore

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Before Pres. Obama’s Afghanistan Speech of December 2009

Dear President Obama, 

Do you really want to be the new "war president"? If you go to West Point tomorrow night (Tuesday, 8pm) and announce that you are increasing, rather than withdrawing, the troops in Afghanistan, you are the new war president. Pure and simple. And with that you will do the worst possible thing you could do — destroy the hopes and dreams so many millions have placed in you. With just one speech tomorrow night you will turn a multitude of young people who were the backbone of your campaign into disillusioned cynics. You will teach them what they’ve always heard is true — that all politicians are alike. I simply can’t believe you’re about to do what they say you are going to do. Please say it isn’t so. It is not your job to do what the generals tell you to do. We are a civilian-run government. WE tell the Joint Chiefs what to do, not the other way around. That’s the way General Washington insisted it must be. That’s what President Truman told General MacArthur when MacArthur wanted to invade China. "You’re fired!," said Truman, and that was that. And you should have fired Gen. McChrystal when he went to the press to preempt you, telling the press what YOU had to do. Let me be blunt: We love our kids in the armed services, but we hate these generals, from Westmoreland in Vietnam to, yes, even Colin Powell for lying to the UN with his made-up drawings of WMD (he has since sought redemption). So now you feel backed into a corner. 30 years ago this past Thursday (Thanksgiving) the Soviet generals had a cool idea — "Let’s invade Afghanistan! " Well, that turned out to be the final nail in the USSR coffin. 

There’s a reason they don’t call Afghanistan the "Garden State" (though they probably should, seeing how the corrupt President Karzai, whom we back, has his brother in the heroin trade raising poppies). Afghanistan’ s nickname is the "Graveyard of Empires." If you don’t believe it, give the British a call. I’d have you call Genghis Khan but I lost his number. I do have Gorbachev’s number though. It’s + 41 22 789 1662. I’m sure he could give you an earful about the historic blunder you’re about to commit.

With our economic collapse still in full swing and our precious young men and women being sacrificed on the altar of arrogance and greed, the breakdown of this great civilization we call America will head, full throttle, into oblivion if you become the "war president." Empires never think the end is near, until the end is here. Empires think that more evil will force the heathens to toe the line — and yet it never works. The heathens usually tear them to shreds. Choose carefully, President Obama. You of all people know that it doesn’t have to be this way. You still have a few hours to listen to your heart, and your own clear thinking. You know that nothing good can come from sending more troops halfway around the world to a place neither you nor they understand, to achieve an objective that neither you nor they understand, in a country that does not want us there. You can feel it in your bones. 

I know you know that there are LESS than a hundred al-Qaeda left in Afghanistan! A hundred thousand troops trying to crush a hundred guys living in caves? Are you serious? Have you drunk Bush’s Kool-Aid? I refuse to believe it. Your potential decision to expand the war (while saying that you’re doing it so you can "end the war") will do more to set your legacy in stone than any of the great things you’ve said and done in your first year. One more throwing a bone from you to the Republicans and the coalition of the hopeful and the hopeless may be gone — and this nation will be back in the hands of the haters quicker than you can shout "tea bag!" 

Choose carefully, Mr. President. Your corporate backers are going to abandon you as soon as it is clear you are a one-term president and that the nation will be safely back in the hands of the usual idiots who do their bidding. That could be Wednesday morning. We the people still love you. We the people still have a sliver of hope. But we the people can’t take it anymore. We can’t take your caving in, over and over, when we elected you by a big, wide margin of millions to get in there and get the job done. What part of "landslide victory" don’t you understand? 

Don’t be deceived into thinking that sending a few more troops into Afghanistan will make a difference, or earn you the respect of the haters. They will not stop until this country is torn asunder and every last dollar is extracted from the poor and soon-to-be poor. You could send a million troops over there and the crazy Right still wouldn’t be happy. You would still be the victim of their incessant venom on hate radio and television because no matter what you do, you can’t change the one thing about yourself that sends them over the edge. The haters were not the ones who elected you, and they can’t be won over by abandoning the rest of us. 

President Obama, it’s time to come home. Ask your neighbors in Chicago and the parents of the young men and women doing the fighting and dying if they want more billions and more troops sent to Afghanistan. Do you think they will say, "No, we don’t need health care, we don’t need jobs, we don’t need homes. You go on ahead, Mr. President, and send our wealth and our sons and daughters overseas, ’cause we don’t need them, either." What would Martin Luther King, Jr. do? What would your grandmother do? Not send more poor people to kill other poor people who pose no threat to them, that’s what they’d do. Not spend billions and trillions to wage war while American children are sleeping on the streets and standing in bread lines. 

All of us that voted and prayed for you and cried the night of your victory have endured an Orwellian hell of eight years of crimes committed in our name: torture, rendition, suspension of the bill of rights, invading nations who had not attacked us, blowing up neighborhoods that Saddam "might" be in (but never was), slaughtering wedding parties in Afghanistan. We watched as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians were slaughtered and tens of thousands of our brave young men and women were killed, maimed, or endured mental anguish — the full terror of which we scarcely know. When we elected you we didn’t expect miracles. We didn’t even expect much change. But we expected some. We thought you would stop the madness. Stop the killing. Stop the insane idea that men with guns can reorganize a nation that doesn’t even function as a nation and never, ever has. 

Stop, stop, stop! For the sake of the lives of young Americans and Afghan civilians, stop. For the sake of your presidency, hope, and the future of our nation, stop. For God’s sake, stop. Tonight we still have hope. 

Tomorrow, we shall see. The ball is in your court. You DON’T have to do this. You can be a profile in courage. You can be your mother’s son.

We’re counting on you.

Yours,

Michael Moore

MMFlint@aol. com

11-50

AdMob’s Founder Omar Hamoui

November 19, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

omar-hamoui Google Inc.’s announcement that it will buy AdMob Inc. for $750 million brought a media spotlight on Accel Partners, an investor in both AdMob and Playfish Inc., which said today it will sell to Electronic Arts Inc. for at least $275 million. Several blogs, including this one, hailed Accel Partners for its impressive and quick investment returns at a time when deals like these are hard to come by.

But AdMob’s founder and CEO, Omar Hamoui, really deserves the attention for building a company that in three years became the largest player of mobile Web ads and ultimately, a coveted jewel for the largest Internet company.

Jim Goetz, a partner at Sequoia Capital and the first investor in AdMob, was quick to praise Hamoui, telling VentureWire that the entrepreneur “has a very keen perception of mobile and a very unconventional approach. All the things you hear today, since the iPhone, about the independent developer – Omar identified that community years ago.

“He kept a maniacal focus on the independent developer,” Goetz continued. “He ignored the carriers, he ignored the ‘walled garden.’ When he started, there was no economy around mobile. It was the inception of this market. He’s a special entrepreneur, and he built an extraordinary business in a short time.” (It’s worth noting that Sequoia has added a picture of Hamoui on its sparsely decorated home page as a tribute to him.)

Hamoui, 32, dropped out of the Wharton School to start up AdMob in January 2006 in an effort to find the best platform for bringing Internet advertising to cellphones. As the story goes, Hamoui originally built a mobile service in 2005 called Fotochatter designed to let people easily share their online photos with friends who can view and comment on them through their mobile phones. But he found it difficult to market the mobile service online, so he set out to start another company to help advertisers do just that.

Hamoui’s first hire was Russell Buckley, now AdMob’s head of European operations, who originally reviewed Fotochatter on his blog MobHappy years ago. That blog is how the pair connected. Earlier this year in May, Buckley reminisced about that chance encounter in a blog post and added: “Over 80 Billion ads and 3 years later, we’ve come [a long] way since then, have over 100 employees and a valuation at least in the hundreds of million dollar range.”

Buckley then posted a short series that shared “some of the lessons [Hamoui] learned” while building AdMob. While we wait to hear back from Hamoui about the Google deal (he commented on his blog here), we found it useful to direct our entrepreneur readers to Buckley’s blog posts which tap into the mind of Hamoui, who offers his thoughts on company launches, deals and negotiations, sales and marketing, competitive threats and communication.

As an example, and in light of the Google acquisition, here are Hamoui’s short pieces of wisdom about deals and negotations, as written by Buckley who adds his comments:

Understand what you really have to lose (which is usually not much)

If you are a person with a laptop and an idea, don’t worry about messing up the 100m dollar business you think you will someday be.

Russell adds: It’s hard to emphasise how important this is. In reality, most people have very little real downside to having a go and even if the idea doesn’t work out (and most don’t let’s remember) you’ll still learn a ton, which will add considerably to your value in business.

I’d also add, on a related note, that far too many entrepreneurs get paranoid about protecting their idea to the point of paralysis. The value of most ideas is in the execution, not in what the concept actually is. To make it reality, you need to share it – actually, with as many people as possible, counter-intuitive though this might seem. And in my view, forget about NDAs and the like. They’re pretty useless all round as far as I’m concerned, but for one man and a laptop, a total waste of time and effort, which at best just create speed breakers for your idea.

Leave something on the table

If your partner feels as good as you walking away from the table, you are much more likely to have a successful relationship.

Russell adds: This is so important. Many self-proclaimed “great deal makers” focus too much on getting the best for themselves and wonder why the relationship falls apart or never achieves its potential.

Wait until the rubber hits the road to evaluate a deal

Don’t get too excited until the results actualize. Most deals are not as good as they look on paper.

Russell adds: Oh yes. If I had a penny….etc

It’s also worth remembering that many of the best deals come from existing relationships with partners or customers. This isn’t as sexy as hunting down the big mammoth stomping around in the jungle, but effective account management is a skill you ignore at your peril and every company could improve this aspect of their operation.

The Google offer no doubt looked good on paper. Hamoui will be staying on with AdMob and Google for now, but you can bet once he’s ready to move on to start another company, venture capitalists will be lining up to invest.

If you want to hear more from Hamoui, below is a one-year-old, half-hour interview by Robert Scoble who around the two-minute mark gets Hamoui to talk about his negotiations with venture investors, including Sequoia Capital, which invested in the company in 2006. Hamoui said he was introduced to Sequoia after he didn’t like a term sheet from another venture firm. On a Thursday night, he flew out to meet Sequoia, even though he had until Friday to decide whether to accept the other firm’s offer. Within 24 hours, Sequoia offered Hamoui a competing term sheet and he signed it two minutes before the other offer’s deadline. Sequoia’s partners deserve credit for seeing something in Hamoui, who was the only employee of the company.

“I had to do the pitch [to Sequoia] like four or five times,” he tells Scoble, “because it has to be a unanimous decision. Every partner has to see it, and every partner has to vote yes otherwise they won’t do it….The overall market opportunity is extremely substantial. And they tend to be market investors, so they’re whole theory is that if the market is spectacular, even a sub-optimal product with a sub-optimal team will do fantastically well. Not that, hopefully, we are either.”

11-48

Harun Yahya – Secrets of the Hypocrites

November 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

They Imagine They are Destined for Paradise

One of the characteristics of hypocrites is that their belief in the Hereafter is very weak and distorted. Most of them do not believe that after death, they will have to account for crimes they committed in this world. And even if they do admit such a possibility, they regard themselves as destined to enter Paradise on account of having done everything necessary to do so. Examples of this flawed thinking are given in the Qur’an:

“I do not think the Hour will ever come. But if I should be sent back to my Lord, I will definitely get something better in return.”

Al-Kahf: 36

According to their own flawed logic, simply because they live among believers, they must have performed various services, for better or worse. That being so, they will be rewarded for these in the Hereafter and will inevitably be admitted to Paradise. At the very worst, they think they will suffer punishment in Hell and then be admitted to Paradise. Allah reveals these misconceptions in the Qur’an:

That is because they say, “The Fire will only touch us for a number of days.” Their inventions have deluded them in their religion.

Ali ‘Imran: 24

As the verse informs us, this is an invention, on account of which hypocrites have been deluded in their religion. This verse, which follows on from the one cited above, reveals the kind of end awaiting them as a result:

But how will it be when We gather them all together for a Day about which there is no doubt? Every self will be paid in full for what it earned. They will not be wronged.

Ali ‘Imran: 25

Damage Wrought by the Disease of Self-Satisfaction

And so that He might punish the men and women of the hypocrites and the men and women of the idolaters—those who think bad thoughts about Allah. They will suffer an evil turn of fate. Allah is angry with them, and has cursed them and prepared Hell for them. What an evil destination!

Al-Fath: 6

Self-satisfaction is by itself a source of trouble for hypocrites. However, as you have seen in the preceding chapters, most of the time they are unaware of this. So self-satisfied and conceited are they that they are even able to ask, “Why does Allah not punish us for what we say? . . .” (Surat al-Mujadala: 8). As emphasized above, however, they are unaware that instead of the evident calamity they expect, they actually suffer numerous calamities, including physical and spiritual harm.

Allah refers in His verses to this harm suffered by hypocrites. Let us now examine these, one by one.

1. They are not Wise

Wisdom is one of the greatest assets a human being can possess. An unwise person is in a most wretched position, even though, being unwise, he is not even aware of this. He confuses wisdom with intelligence and so makes inaccurate decisions.

The same thing applies to the hypocrite, who may enjoy a particular level of intelligence. But he can never enjoy the wisdom that Allah bestows only on true believers, which allows them to distinguish right from wrong. They are thus deprived of one of the greatest blessings.

Wisdom is also one of a person’s greatest needs. At every moment of his life, a person needs it to be able to distinguish right from wrong and to protect himself from evil. The hypocrite’s devotion to this world leads to his being unwise. Therefore, he is unsuccessful when it comes to even the simplest matters requiring wisdom. The greatest proof of hypocrites’ lack of wisdom is how they imagine that Allah does not see what they do. (Surely Allah is beyond that!) Therefore, they seek to deceive believers and imagine that they can do so with impunity. They are addressed in the following terms in the Qur’an:

Don’t they know that Allah knows what they keep secret and what they make public?

Al-Baqara: 77

Another unwise claim they make is that Allah will not bring their iniquity into the light of day. However, on the Day of Judgment, Allah will round up and punish all the hypocrites who have ever lived. Before the Day of Judgment, He will also humiliate them in this world.

2. They are Unable to Comprehend the Verses

Sincere Muslims are, as set out in the Qur’an, “those who, when they are reminded of the signs of their Lord, do not turn their backs, deaf and blind to them” (Surat al-Furqan: 73). They are particularly sensitive to the verses of Allah. All believers know that all the verses of the Qur’an directly concern them and that they cannot remain unconcerned or distant from any of them. However, for possession of this state of mind, there is one very important precondition. An individual must be very humble, and not regard himself as free from any imperfections or defects. Only when a person has this sincerity and humility will Allah bestow the meaning of His verses in his or her heart.

Hypocrites, on the other hand, are very proud and a far cry from being sincere. They can never possess such an understanding due to their self-satisfaction. Although constantly exposed to the messenger’s message, they lack the ability to understand a single word he says. Their lack of comprehension is related in the Qur’an:

You will not make dead men hear; you will not make deaf men hear the call, when they turn their backs in flight. You will not guide blind men from their misguidance. You will not make anyone hear except for those who believe in Our signs and so are Muslims.

Ar-Rum: 52-53

The Qur’an also tells us how hypocrites, unaffected by the messenger’s words, possess a closed understanding due to the effects of their own self-satisfaction:
Who could do greater wrong than someone who is reminded of the signs of his Lord and then turns away from them, forgetting all that he has done before? We have placed covers on their hearts, preventing them from understanding it, and heaviness in their ears. Though you call them to guidance, they will nonetheless never be guided.

Al-Kahf: 57

Again, as a consequence of the self-satisfaction that infects them and their inability to understand Allah’s Book, they misinterpret various of His verses. The reason for this is their pride and unfounded trust in their own limited wisdom. Allah warns believers beforehand against this disease carried by hypocrites by telling how they will seek to create strife in the community of the faithful:

It is He Who sent down the Book to you from Him: verses containing clear judgments—they are the core of the Book—and others which are open to interpretation. Those with deviation in their hearts follow what is open to interpretation in it, desiring conflict, seeking its inner meaning. No one knows its inner meaning but Allah. Those firmly rooted in knowledge say, “We believe in it. All of it is from our Lord.” But only people of intelligence pay heed.

Ali ‘Imran: 7

 

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Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – ALLAH is the Only Reality

September 10, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

“..…And further, thou seest the earth barren and lifeless.  But when We pour down rain on it, it swells, and puts forth every kind of beautiful growth in pairs.  6). This is so because ALLAH is the Reality.  It is He who gives life to the dead, and it is He who has power over all things.” 

Qur’an 22:5, 6

Repeated:  There is a positive thinking book out called “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff – and it’s all small stuff.”  This statement sort of puts in perspective everything we know.  ALLAH, The Almighty, made Adam (human beings) to be over everything we can see or imagine.  That is awesome power.  Just look at the creation of ALLAH.

We can start with the tiniest of atoms, which we cannot see with our naked eye, and they are composed of matter even smaller.  We are in control of even this microscopic material.  Look at the awesome destructive power we unleashed by splitting one.  The ensuing chain reaction resulted in the most destructive and deadly weapon man has ever used against his fellow man.  And that was 60 years ago so you can imagine what we have now.

We can then look at what we can see in this world.  Trees, animals, etc. are all under our control.  Tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters, will one day be controlled by us or at least we will harness their power for our use.

And this world seems to be nothing compared to the universe and beyond.  Adam is also in charge of that.  I don’t think it will be long before we have people living and vacationing on the moon.

But with all that great and powerful material creation that we can see, as well as imagine, we must remember, it is all fading away.  Science has calculated that the sun, as massive as it is, is burning out.  Only ALLAH is permanent. He, ALLAH, says everything is fading away except Him.  ALLAH is The Reality – The ONLY Reality.

“What is with you must vanish: what is with ALLAH will endure.  And We will certainly bestow, on those who patiently persevere, their reward according to the best of their actions.” 

16:96

So knowing this great truth we should not let any person bring us some “small stuff” and make us feel inferior to them.  Sometimes we let people chastise us by reminding us of some mistake we have made.  They will go so far as to make you seem stupid for making the mistake.  But we must remember, that mistake, and everybody’s mistake will go away along with the rest of creation.

Generally these people are reminding you of your shortcomings to make you seem small and make them seem big to you.  This is nothing but Shaitan trying to fulfill what he promised ALLAH he would do to Adam (human beings).  And when you look closely at them, you find they are making more mistakes than you – but trying to conceal them.  Their aim and intention is to denigrate you.

But if you view it right, your mistake is only there as a learning tool for you.  It is to teach you not to do that thing again.  But it will go away because ALLAH is the only reality.  If these evil people try to denigrate you by calling you stupid or something worse, just say, “maybe I am, but so are you.  ALLAH is the only reality.”  This should make you feel better instantly and while you are feeling better about yourself you can more directly take steps to improve yourself.  

As Salaam alaikum
(Al Hajj) Imam Abdullah El-Amin

Harun Yahya – Secrets of the Hypocrites

September 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

They Seek to Turn People from the Path of Allah

One of the important responsibilities Allah imposes on a believer is to command what is good and forbid what is evil, and to announce the world the stipulations of the Qur’an’s moral values. It is to warn people to save their eternal lives in the Hereafter by explaining the vital issue of which they are heedless. This responsibility is great, and the work to be done is wide-ranging. For believers, being a vehicle whereby even one person acquires faith is of the greatest importance in obtaining Allah’s approval.

However, the attitude of hypocrites is just about the exact opposite of what it should be. Instead of calling people to the path of Allah, they have undertaken to turn people from it, showing that they act under the inspiration of satan. Instead of being a means whereby people come to faith, the hypocrite’s main objective is, like satan, to turn them aside from that path and attract others to the ranks of the hypocrites:

Among people there is one who argues about Allah without knowledge or guidance or any light-giving book, turning away arrogantly, to misguide people from the way of Allah. He will be disgraced in this world and on the Day of Resurrection We will make him taste the punishment of the burning.

al-Hajj: 8-9

Hypocrites employ a variety of methods. In applying them, however, their main characteristic is cunning. They seek to hinder believers by following a two-faced approach while remaining in their midst. This is doubtless the main reason why they will be made “the lowest of the low” in the Hereafter.

They Bear Tales about Believers to the Deniers

. . . and among you are listeners on behalf of them. . .

At-Tawba: 47

Hypocrites’ greatest desire is to see the society of believers fall apart. For that reason they combine forces with deniers, whom they believe to be very powerful, and embark on a cunning struggle against believers. A unified community of believers represents a severe danger to them. Therefore, they first and foremost seek to eliminate that unity. They aim to wreak as much harm as possible, or rather they strive to do so.

They regard their presence inside a society of believers as an advantage, imagining that while in their midst, they will be able to engage in much covert activity against them, being able to round up news and information. Yet every action they take rebounds as a problem back on their own heads and fails to achieve any aim.

The objective of these people, who initiate co-operation with deniers while still within the community of believers, is to learn the believers’ tactics and then transmit these to the deniers. At this point, however, a factor enters the equation that the hypocrites either do not know or else underestimate. Allah never permits the establishment of any order that works against believers. Over the course of history, all the snares set by hypocrites have collapsed. According to Allah’s promise, this will continue in the future. Everything they do will be condemned to failure.

They Whisper in Secret

Hypocrites engage in secret talk while in the midst of believers, intending to provoke sin, enmity and rebellion:

Don’t you see those who were forbidden to confer together secretly returning to the very thing they were forbidden to do, and conferring together secretly in wrongdoing and enmity and disobedience to the messenger? .

Al-Mujadala: 8

While in the community of the faithful, they establish a secret union amongst themselves and draw up plans against the believers. One example of this was seen in the days of the Prophet Muhammad (s):

As for those who have set up a mosque, causing harm and out of disbelief, to create division between the believers, and in readiness for those who previously made war on Allah and His Messenger, they will swear, “We only desired the best.” But Allah bears witness that they are truly liars.

At-Tawba: 107

The hypocrites of that time secured a separate area from the believers from which to observe from afar the Prophet (saas) and those around him, learn what they were doing and set traps for them. The Qur’an particularly mentions this characteristic of hypocrites. The hypocrites who do so imagine that by keeping something hidden from believers and by drawing up secret plans, they will thus achieve success. The fact is, however, that Allah sees all that they do, as is revealed in this verse: “Don’t they know that Allah knows their secrets and their private talk, and that Allah is the Knower of all unseen things?” (Surat at-Tawba: 78) This behavior stems, of course, from their failure to believe this important secret.

Not only do they adopt an atheistic approach among believers, they also whisper rebellion against the Prophet (saas). But in the Hereafter, when everything they ever did is set out before them, they will realize that what they did was not secret and that it is enough that Allah, the Supporter of the believers, is aware of all plans prepared against them. Hypocrites do not expect Allah to reveal all these activities they seek to conceal from other people, because again, it is human beings whom they fear. In fact, though, all their deeds will be held to account in the Hereafter, and their actions they regarded as secret—which they imagined would never see the light of day—will be laid out, one by one, before them.

They Organize Evil

Believers spend their lives performing religious observances for Allah and undertaking the most serious endeavors on His path. In the light of that objective, they seek to spend every moment of their lives in search of the good; because they know the uncertainty surrounding the time of their deaths.

But hypocrites, as in everything else, behave in a totally contrary way to believers. They seek evil at every moment of their lives. Deliberately planning to slander the innocent or prepare snares for believers, they seek to harm the faithful. All their efforts are directed against believers. The main starting point for their efforts is the resentment they feel towards believers and the verses of Allah. Each warning issued only intensifies the hatred within them and strengthens their desire for revenge, as is revealed in verses:

. . . But then when a warner did come to them, it only increased their aversion, shown by their arrogance in the land and evil plotting. But evil plotting envelops only those who do it. . . .

Fatir: 42-43

This hatred they feel can cause them to do many things. As prophets come to remind them of goodness and beauty and read the verses of Allah, so the rage inside them grows and leads them towards cunning actions. For that reason, they begin to organize and plan evil against believers. They plan to hinder believers’ activities and seek to provoke discord among them. They endeavor to twist a commandment given to believers and to portray disobedience to the prophet as something desirable. They rebel by committing deeds that the prophet says should not be performed, and seek to garner support. Everything they do is aimed at damaging the existing order and weakening the community of the faithful.

According to what the Qur’an teaches us, however, none of these efforts will have any effect. In all periods of history, those who have plotted against Allah’s order have been vanquished. Anyone who is unable to appreciate Allah properly will continue with these endeavors unaware of this great truth. The fact is that, as is revealed in the Qur’an, any scheming will impinge on none but its author.

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Harun Yahya – Secrets of the Hypocrites

August 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Their Real Target is the Messenger of Allah

The real reason for the hatred in their hearts is that believers unconditionally obey Allah and His messenger, constantly remember Allah and the Qur’an, and offer them advice. The more believers warn them about the imminence of death, the reality of the Hereafter and the fact that salvation lies in obedience to Allah and His messenger, the greater their hatred and desire for revenge. They cannot accommodate the concept of obedience because they are unable to appreciate the messenger of Allah, and in the face of the superior virtues they witness in him, their hatred grows still further. For that reason, their real target is the messenger, and their real struggle is waged against him. It is revealed in the Qur’an that hypocrites strove to combat the Prophet (s):

If they do argue with you, say: “Allah knows best what you are doing.”

Al-Hajj: 68

Hypocrites have waged struggles against all the messengers who have ever lived, although all throughout the course of history, their endeavors have proved fruitless. The fact that these attempts against all the messengers have borne no fruit has driven hypocrites to despair, while the messengers and believers have grown ever stronger.

They Seek to Deceive Believers

We have already said that the most distinguishing feature that makes hypocrites of these people is the way they seek to portray themselves as having faith when really they have none. These people, who only reveal their true faces to people they imagine to be just like them, simply act a role alongside believers. The Qur’an, however, refers to hypocrites as seeking to deceive believers but in fact deceiving nobody but themselves:

They think they deceive Allah and those who believe. They deceive no one but themselves but they are not aware of it.

Al-Baqara: 9

The Qur’an refers to hypocrites who lived in the times of the prophets and the messengers saying “We believe,” but that actually they had no real faith, thus encouraging all believers to be on their guard against them:

O Messenger! Do not be grieved by those who rush headlong into disbelief among those who say “We believe” with their tongues when their hearts contain no faith. And among the Jews are those who listen to lies, listening to other people who have not come to you, distorting words from their proper meanings, saying, “If you are given this, then take it. If you are not given it, then beware!” If Allah desires misguidance for someone, you cannot help him against Allah in any way. Those are the people whose hearts Allah does not want to purify. They will have disgrace in this world, and in the Hereafter they will have a terrible punishment.

Al-Ma’ida: 41

These characteristics of hypocrites have remained unchanged for centuries. The Qur’an refers to the existence of these people, who have claimed throughout history to be possessed of faith. Since hypocrites have had the same features at all times, and since their actions have always been opposed to the messengers, their deeds and what befell them have always remained the same. According to Allah’s promise, they will continue to come to the same “end.” It is revealed in one verse that:

Don’t you see those who claim that they believe in what has been sent down to you and what was sent down before you, still desiring to turn to a satanic source for judgment in spite of being ordered to reject it? Satan wants to misguide them far away.

An-Nisa’: 60

They Feel Enraged by the Strength of Believers

That the actions they take against believers fail to achieve their aims merely increases hypocrites’ anger. In the same way, the increasing strength of the faithful also enrages them. The following verses clarify the hypocrites’ state of mind:

If something good happens to you, it galls them. If something bad strikes you, they rejoice at it. . . .

Ali ‘Imran: 120

If good happens to you, it galls them. . . .

At-Tawba: 50

Hypocrites attempt to use believers to secure their own interests while they are amongst them, but their calculations prove hollow. They fail to secure their hoped-for advantages, while the believers grow ever stronger. This is an unchanging law of Allah, Who has revealed that He will help those who believe and have faith in Him in the life of this world and will bestow on them the finest of blessings. Hypocrites are also well aware of this. However, as a result of the cunning approach they take, the lives of believers, which are full of constant peace and ease, become sources of anger for them. Believers, always at ease, are rewarded with an abundance that the hypocritical logic is unable to fathom. That explains why hypocrites always desire for communities of the faithful, whom they detest, to be in a constant state of vexation. For hypocrites, the blessings that Allah bestows upon believers, and the abundance in which they live, are a source of troubling rage whereas any difficulty experienced by believers delights them. This defective state of mind of theirs is revealed in the Qur’an:

. . . They will do anything to harm you. They love what causes you distress. . . .

Ali ‘Imran: 118

Since believers are subjected to testing by Allah, from time to time they may encounter what appear to be difficulties, but these are all tests for them. They know that difficulties hone them, increase their capacities for struggle and are the means whereby they can attain Paradise. The way that such difficulties enrage hypocrites is the most evident proof of their inability to comprehend the secret of living for Allah and their unawareness that this world is a place of testing. While believers evaluate these difficulties as auspicious, hypocrites regard them as sources of vexation for believers and as a victory for themselves. Their own natures keep them unaware of the measure of believers’ wisdom and the strength of their faith. They imagine that believers will inevitably be downcast by the trials they encounter and that their unity will finally be impaired. They thus harbor great joy and expectations. Yet these expectations will come to nothing. They are unable to understand those who draw strength from and are devoted to Allah, and thus fall into a grave error.

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Once Upon a Destined Time

August 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Siddiq Ather

Step, dip, look, hop, stumble, flail, drip, drop and step. It is always an annoyance when you accidently step into a puddle, a predicament that happened perchance because a lack of perspicacity or maybe simply put in place by destiny; drip, nevertheless no matter how many more thoughts profess it makes the water soak no less, it doesn’t clean the mess.  Since there is no use crying over spilled milk, he continued to walk under the silky sky with his big white hat and waving tie, no frown, no curse, no frustration dispersed, and maybe even a smile crossed his face. Pondering over how this was his problem in life, something so small. If he were to become angry how in the world he would stand next to those who are patient in times of real hardship. How could he stand with those who have no homes, no food, or no sight to lose? Don’t be confused, wet ankles and shoes aren’t his preferred medium of walking but everything must be put into perspective, dig?

That was his explanation to him as the bus’s speed began to dim, and it stopped.  He propped up and walked off saying goodbye to him; the doors closed and the rims began to spin. The bus darkened as its final destination for the day neared and its final passenger veered toward the exit. Though he usually wouldn’t mind to stay a bit, to chat and chit, there was something waiting, in somber solitude as it had waited for ages. Its pages waiting like papyrus cages holding words heavy on the heart but light on the sight. He hastily descended to the ground and laboriously looked around to avoid any puddles in the vicinity. Then he, quite easily, made his way to the bus stop shelter, listening to the sound of the bus leaving echo into the distance.  Walking into the glass box he heard the echo of the bus mince with the profound drips and drops falling down off of roof tops making small spots of dark gray on the pavement.

This time he was sitting in the light of day; the sun’s shining rays penetrated the clouds and went past the glass hitting those golden letters on that dark cover. He shuttered at the shining spots on the silver strap and the buckle burning brightly under the sun. He sat on the bench and exhaled. The cover sat there next to the unlatched buckle. He took a deep breath and opened the book with a quick glance at the title, Stories of the Wise and Human; the first page still held the phrase one person, one page. Flipping through the blank pages, he felt an odd texture on a page and stopped. It was wrinkled, the way paper gets after it gets wet and dries. It was brittle, hard, stiff, and stubborn all at the same time.  The page was covered in curly, but neat, blue ink; they looked like thin vines and leaves delicate, intricate, and complex gripping the various faces of the page. It was a beautiful piece of art further accented by the crinkled page behind it. The sentences twisted and turned in such a fluid manner that they seemed almost alive; he was careful not to tip the book to one side because of the fear that the liquid sapphire resting on the page might drop, in essence, a baseless fear.   Realizing his foolishness, he tipped the book side to side.  It looked nice, but what did it say?

In the name of the most merciful, may peace be upon anyone reading this book or writing in it. The world works in funny ways with nigh pitch black nights, and sunny days.  With its twists and turns, it is more like a maze.  Every soul follows its own path, converging and diverging with the lives of others.

It was one of those cold Chicago days you hear so much about, with the wind chill way below zero and piles of snow everywhere. I never really thought gloves were necessary until that day. You wouldn’t be able to identify any walking passerby as a person; they just looked like moving piles of cloth. I was wearing a sweat pants under a long skirt, a sweater, jacket, and a cloth scarf. You know how in the fall when it gets mildly chilly you always chance upon seeing that one determined individual in the morning, jogging with only shorts on in the “cold” weather, it is always such a juxtaposition  and deserves that “are you crazy” stare. Well, the tables had turned and everyone was giving me that “are you crazy” stare.  I didn’t know I would be standing in the cold for this long! I thought all I needed was something warm enough to get to the car and back. Turns out my car got towed. You would think they might have a shred of mercy in this freezing weather and seeing my out of state license plate.

Turns out my wardrobe hadn’t been the only reason I was getting the “are you crazy stare.” According to a round and fluffy tan jacket with what seemed to be a raccoon hat wrapped in a beige scarf,” taxis don’t really come round here. You should try the bus stop a few blocks down.”  From where I was standing, anything was better than standing here in the cold with the glacial gusts blowing right through my clothes and freezing me to the core, I was wrong. Trudging along buildings through about a foot of snow, completely oblivious as to whether I was on the sidewalk, grass, or shoulder of the road, was way worse. I had a cozy hotel room I could’ve been in, but no, I wanted to see “the town.”  After taking a few wrong turns I found the bus stop. Luckily or unluckily, I waited next to an old purple coat with an elegant air and a small energy filled pink jacketed munchkin that wouldn’t stop running around.  The purple coat had a black fur scarf, and was extremely well versed in how the Chicago bus system worked and the history of Chicago. When the bus came I sat with her part of the way to the lot where my car would be. She said I should call anybody I knew around here in case something went wrong. I called my best friend who I had come here for in the first place, she didn’t pick up. She was probably busy preparing for her wedding, which was tonight. I was busy the whole night before I had flown here early yesterday morning, and had slept the whole day. That’s what prompted me to venture into “town” today.

I exited the bus and walked to the end of the street where I found the “prison” where my car was being held.  Because of various reasons which I couldn’t explain if I had to, it took hours for me to get my car back; luckily, I had prayed beforehand. I took some hot chocolate from the vending machine and ran to my car. I thought why I had to go through all this trouble, why all these bad things happened to me. I turned on the head lights, reversed, and drove out. It appeared that I wasn’t the only one in a hurry; some of the cars around me were driving just as fast, despite the snow. A green light turned yellow, but I needed get back fast. The light turned red, and I braked. The problem was my car didn’t stop. I had no control and no grip. I heard loud honking, and as I looked through my window I saw a car coming at me from the side, its lights getting brighter and brighter. Everything went by very slowly. Suddenly, the car skidding behind me, bumped me forward, just enough to be missed by the oncoming traffic. Not looking back I heard what I thought was the car behind me and the car that was about to hit me crash; the sound of bending metal and shattering glass permeated the air. My car got grip again and I parked on the side of a road, and called the police. A few moments later an ambulance came and took the people out of their cars. Most of them were able to walk away, but some were taken in the ambulance to have some injuries treated, at least that’s what they told me.  The police said the main cause of the accident was something called “black ice” around the intersection. I talked to the officer about the whole incident, in the end they said to drive safe and have a good night.

I sat in my car and cried thanking the most merciful. I remembered something my mum said before I left,” no matter what happens always say alhamdulila.” I said the supplication or dua before driving a vehicle and drove back to my hotel.  I received a call from the friend whose wedding I was missing. I could tell she was uneasy about something as soon as she picked up the phone.  I told her the whole story and by the end she was more worried about me than whatever had happened. Apparently, it was so cold that some pipes had burst around the hall they were using, so everyone was moved to a random empty hall in the middle of the wedding, and by the time everything was sorted out most of the guests had left. She said that I shouldn’t worry about it though, and that they were holding a smaller function at her uncle’s house with close family and friends. She sincerely apologized for not calling sooner, but after hearing about how busy she was all day, I understood.  We talked most of the night, and she said she would pick me up tomorrow, I declined.  She insisted it wouldn’t be much trouble. I told her I found out there was a bus which went straight to where she lived, and it was pretty close to my hotel, she finally accepted saying she would be waiting at the bus stop. I told her the departure and arrival times, and went to bed.

I walked to this bus shelter and found this odd but interesting book, and couldn’t help but write down the events that had transpired. I just got a call from my friend; she is actually across the street. She said she’d be waiting at the bus stop but asserts that she didn’t mention which one; she also says I should come quickly because my hot chocolate is getting cold. The snow has lightened up a bit, and is not as bone chilling as yesterday. I guess I’ll be going soon so I will end with a final bit. If you’re in Chicago or any other city, watch where you park, prepare for the weather, and if the times get tough, trust in the most merciful. With every hardship comes ease.

11-33

Niqabi, Interrupted

July 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Wearing my niqab is a choice freely made, for spiritual reasons

By Naima B.Robert

Niqab3 I put on my niqab, my face veil, each day before I leave the house, without a second thought. I drape it over my face, tie the ribbons at the back and adjust the opening over my eyes to make sure my peripheral vision is not affected.

Had I a full-length mirror next to the front door, I would be able to see what others see: a woman of average height and build, covered in several layers of fabric, a niqab, a jilbab, sometimes an abayah, sometimes all black, other times blue or brown. A Muslim woman in ‘full veil’. A niqabi.

But is that truly how people see me? When I walk through the park with my little ones in tow, when I reverse my car into a parking space, when I browse the shelves in the frozen section, when I ask how to best cook asparagus at a market stall, what do people see? An oppressed woman? A nameless, voiceless individual? A criminal?

Well, if Mr Sarkozy and others like him have their way, I suppose I will be a criminal, won’t I? Never mind that “it’s a free country”; never mind that I made this choice from my own free will, as did the vast majority of covered women of my generation; never mind that I am, in every other respect, an upstanding citizen who works hard as a mother, author and magazine publisher, spends responsibly, recycles and tries to eat seasonally and buy local produce!

Yes, I cover my face, but I am still of this society. And, as crazy as it might sound, I am human, a human being with my own thoughts, feelings and opinions. I refuse to allow those who cannot know my reality to paint me as a cardboard cut-out, an oppressed, submissive, silenced relic of the Dark Ages. I am not a stereotype and, God willing, I never will be.

But where are those who will listen? At the end of the day, Muslim women have been saying for years that the hijab et al are not oppressive, that we cover as an act of faith, that this is a bonafide spiritual lifestyle choice. But the debate rages on, ironically, largely to the exclusion of the women who actually do cover their faces.

The focus on the niqab is, in my opinion, utterly misplaced. Don’t the French have anything better to do than tell Muslim women how to dress? Don’t our societies have bigger problems than a relative handful of women choosing to cover their faces out of religious conviction? The “burka issue” has become a red herring: there are issues that Muslim women face that are more pressing, more wide-reaching and, essentially, more relevant than whether or not they should be covering with a niqab, burqa or hijab.

At the end of the day, all a ban will do is force Muslim women who choose to cover to retreat even further – it is not going to result in a mass “liberation” of Muslim women from the veil. All women, covered or not, deserve the opportunity to dress as they see fit, to be educated, to work where they deem appropriate and run their lives in accordance with their principles, as long as these choices do not impinge on others’ freedoms. And last time I looked, being able to see a woman’s hair, legs or face were not rights granted alongside “liberté, egalité et fraternité”.

As a Muslim woman living in the UK, I am so grateful for the fact that my society does not force me to choose between being a practising Muslim and an active member of society. I have been able to study, to work, to establish a writing career and run a magazine business, all while wearing a niqaab. I think that that is a credit to British society, no matter what the anti-multiculturalists may say, and I think the French coul d learn some very valuable lessons from the British approach.

So, three cheers for those women who make the choice to cover, in whatever way and still go out there every day. Go out to brave the scorn and ridicule of those who think they understand the burka better than those who actually wear it. Go out to face the humiliating headlines. Go out to face the taunts of schoolchildren. Go out to fight another day. Go out to do their bit for society and the common good. Because you never know, if Mr Sarkozy and his supporters have their way, there could come a day when these women think twice about going out there into a society that cannot bear the way they look. And, who knows, I could be one of them.

And, while some would disagree, I think that would be a sad day.

Na’ima B. Robert is the founding editor of SISTERS , a magazine for Muslim women and author of ‘From My Sisters’ Lips ‘, a look at the lives of British Muslim women who cover.

11-29

Hibernation

July 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

tufail

Hibernation is a time when animals ‘sleep’ through cold weather.  This sleep is not like human sleep where loud noises can wake you up.  With true hibernation, the animal can be moved around or touched and not know it.  [Don’t you do this, though.  Some animals only go into a torpor or temporary sleep time and can wake up quickly.  Like BEARS.]  We use the word ‘sleep’ sometimes but hibernation is different from sleep.  With normal sleep, the animal moves a little, has an active brain, and can wake up very quickly.  With true hibernation, the animal appears dead.  There is no movement and it takes a long time for it to wake up enough to even walk around.

During the fall, hibernating animals eat more than usual.  Their bodies will live off their body fat as they ‘sleep’ through winter.  The animal will use up the body fat it stores and not lose any muscle.  This causes the animal to come out of hibernation thinner but still as strong as it was in the fall.

The animals get their winter nests, dens and burrows ready.  Different kinds of animals hibernate in different kinds of safe spots.  When they go into hibernation and their bodies slow down, enemies can get them easier.  They try to pick the safest place to spend the winter away from these enemies.

Hibernation is the way animals adapt to the climate and land around them.  Animals must be able to live through extreme cold…. or die. 

We don’t think about body energy too often.  Our bodies are like machines that need power to work right.  Food gives animals the energy they need to walk, run, hunt for food, and lots of other things.  Hibernating animals store food as body fat during the end of summer and during fall.  This body fat runs their bodies all winter.  This would be hard to do if they stayed awake, moved around a lot, or ran around because those things would use up the body fat before winter was over.   A hibernating animal’s body saves energy by doing a couple of cool things.

When an animal begins to hibernate, its body temperature drops very low so that it almost matches the temperature outside.   Your temperature is normally about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.  If you were a hibernator and it was 30 degrees outside, your body temperature would drop from 98.6 down to about 30-40 degrees. THAT’S cold!

The animal’s heartbeat and breathing slow down, too.  This is when that stored fat that the animal packed on in the fall comes in handy.  This stored fat lasts longer because their bodies are slowed down so much that they don’t need much energy.  This is how the animal makes it through the whole winter on the fat it has stored in its body.  This is why it’s important for animals to get enough food stored in the fall.  If there is a shortage of food at that time, the animal might not live until spring when it can find its food again.

Some of these hibernators also store food in their caves and burrows.  The ones that do this do not sleep straight through the winter.  They wake up once in awhile, walk around a little, and eat before they go back to sleep.

11-29

Houstonian Corner for Volume 8, Issue 17

April 24, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

First-Ever Mawlid Procession in Downtown Houston
“This effort is being done to show intense love for our Beloved Messenger Mohammad (Peace Be Upon him): Also this peaceful walk through the blocks of downtown calls all the world especially our neighboring Americans of all backgrounds to appreciate by learning and knowing about the humanity-loving personality of Messenger Mohammad (s),” said one of the organizers of this first-of-its kind march in downtown Houston, which was held in the honor of the glorious Messenger Muhammad (s) during this blessed hijra month, Rabi-ul-Awwal.
Many Muslims came to the event, where the atmosphere was buzzing with nasheeds and with Islamic Poetry sung in both English and Urdu. Slogans of “Allah Is Great” and “Naray Risala” were showered on the holiest messenger Muhammad (s).
The peaceful parade started at Market Square in downtown Houston, went up about four to five blocks along Milam, and then circled around back to the starting area.
There under tents all the participants listened to stories related by imams of the many beautiful aspects of the life of Messenger Muhammad (s).
The Shahnai Restaurant provided free food to show their love for the most beloved Messenger for the occasion.
For more information on similar programs, please call 713-779-1304. -
MYBA All-Star Basketball Benefit!
Don’t Miss This Treat Next Time
By Coach
Jamaaluddin J. Al-Haidar
On Sunday, April 2nd, a small but vocal group of supporters and basketball fans filed into Northwest Houston’s spacious air-conditioned Del Mar coliseum in anticipation of an afternoon of excitement and entertainment as six Muslim All-Star basketball teams took to the court for three highly-competitive games. Indeed these were the fortunate ones for they were to be a part of making history as the Muslim Youth Basketball Association (MYBA) held its first-ever-in-Texas-of-its-kind youth and young adult basketball competition.
The afternoon started with congregational dhur prayers followed by the first game of the afternoon, between the Mecca and Medina squads at the 14-and-under age division. This game was followed by the Mecca and Medina squads 18-and-under players, and then the main event, the ever popular and exciting 19-and-older young adult division.
Over the course of two months, tryouts were held at sites on the North and South sides of the city. The six 8-man rosters included some of the best talent from across the many ISGH-affiliated masajid and centers, as well as from Masjid Al-Farouk, Madrassa Islamiah, the Islamic Education Center, and the Nigerian-American Muslim community.
MYBA Commissioner Jamaaluddin Al-Haidar was himself very involved in the talent selection process. “While we wanted to access the best basketball talent available, we went out of our way to build Mecca and Medina teams that would showcase our ethnic and cultural diversity while developing strong bonds of kinship between brothers who under most scenarios would not likely be teammates or even attend the same Masjid.”
At times, the coliseum sounded like a Rockets game at the Toyota Center. MC and play-by-play announcer Badar Alam set the stage as he introduced the starting lineups at the start of each game.
As players jogged out to center court one-by-one, acknowledging and tapping fists with the three uniformed licensed referee officials along the way, it was truly a wonderful sight to see two teams of Muslims wearing the names of these two historic Islamic cities. Team Mecca wore white jerseys with black trim, while the Medina squad wore black jerseys with white trim.
Despite disappointing ticket sales and gate receipts, MYBA Treasurer Aijaz Ahmed was optimistic about the future of these kinds of events in the local Muslim community. “This is just the beginning. This is something very new for our community. Those who were here at the event can now go back and tell others how well-organized the event was, how clean and comfortable the facility was, and certainly how exciting and competitive the games were. Insha`Allah, with more planning and marketing, the next one will be much bigger.”
The excitement on the faces of the many young children who were in attendance and the cheers from their parents as their adopted teams scored points was something new….something that hasn’t happened in a long time in this community…..something that MYBA hopes to make happen with regularity.
MYBA wishes to express its special gratitude for the efforts of dedicated volunteers and donors like Latif Bhegani, Nazeer Malik, Shabana Motors, and event sponsors, Jerusalem Halal Meats, Shahnai Restaurant and Payless/Affordable Auto Glass.
Proceeds from the event after expenses amounted to $1,200 and were presented to ICNA Relief for its Helping Hands Relief work in the earthquake-stricken regions of South Asia.
Plans are underway for a super tournament featuring Muslim teams from the Dallas Ft-Worth and Austin communities as well as our local Houston teams. The spring leagues as well as the annual MYBA Hoopfest summer-long basketball development camp, league, and tournament are currently under development as well.
Stay updated by joining the MYBA mailing list at www.mybausa.org. -