Is Yemen the New Hot Spot for Terrorism Training?

January 7, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

New America Media, Q&A, Aaron Glantz

Editor’s Note: Reports that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the suspect accused of trying to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day, was trained in Yemen have raised the specter of further U.S. military involvement in that country. To get a better sense of what’s going on in Yemen, NAM editor Aaron Glantz spoke with Jillian Schwedler, a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and author of the book, “Faith in Moderation: Islamist Parties in Jordan and Yemen.”

2010-01-06T200542Z_440314731_GM1E6170BC301_RTRMADP_3_YEMEN-QAEDA

A security personnel stands behind a machinegun installed on a vehicle in Sanaa January 6, 2010. Yemeni forces surrounded a suspected al Qaeda regional leader near the capital on Wednesday and captured three militants wounded in a raid, security sources said. Yemen, the poorest Arab country, was thrust into the foreground of the U.S.-led war against Islamist militants after a Yemen-based wing of al Qaeda said it was behind a Christmas Day attempt to bomb a U.S.-bound plane.                                

REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

What was your first reaction when you heard that Abdulmutallab was trained in Yemen?

Yemen has fairly porous borders and a lot of people are in and out of there. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything. It’s not like going to a camp in Afghanistan. It doesn’t have the same meaning. I mean, you go to a camp in Afghanistan, you’re pretty much going for one reason. It’s not the same as Yemen.

It seems like in the popular discussion, Yemen is becoming associated with fundamentalist clerics and terrorism.

There are definitely a lot of extremists there, but I think the bigger framework to think about Yemen is not as a hotbed of radicalism and terror but as a state where the government does not control all of the land. They’ve been fighting a significant insurgency in the North for six years now and there’s a separatist group in the South that’s in an armed conflict. The Ministry of Interior estimates that there are 60 million weapons outside of government hands in Yemen. And that’s in a country of 20 million people. So it’s a highly-armed, fragmented society and the government hasn’t really had control over the entire country for some time, if ever. So certainly there’s extremism there, but there’s a lot of stuff going on that the government isn’t really in control of.

So who is in the leadership of the government of Yemen?

The government of Ali Abdullah Saleh is essentially a central government, but there are many parts of the country that are not under the central government. There are armed areas that the government doesn’t police and doesn’t have anything to do with, except to offer very limited services. And we’re talking about big chunks of the country in the North and the East particularly. It’s not one little enclave.

And a huge part of the border with Saudi Arabia is not even defined because it’s a desert. There are not a lot of people there but there are chunks of the country that are frontier-land kind of areas where people move between those two states.

Yemen was two countries during the Cold War.

Even calling it two countries becomes sort of a fiction. For years, it was just sort of a bunch of enclaves including the British colony that was there for nearly 100 years in the South, various tribal governments, there was a Northern government. But from the ‘60s, you had two states, a Northern state which was the Yemen Arab Republic, and the Southern state which was the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, which was a Marxist, Soviet outpost. And so when the Soviet Union fell in 1989, they lost all their funding and then North Yemen was never particularly strong, and so the two decided that they would unite, which they did and initially had democratic elections in which nobody won a majority.

Northern loyalists were assassinating socialists in the South and the unification never really went forward. They unified the country formally, but former governments maintained their owned armies. That culminated in a civil war in 1994 that lasted two months. And the North defeated the South and has been in control ever since under the leadership of the same president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

So it’s really become an Egypt-style government where there’s a president who pretends to be elected and everyone else pretends to have candidates.

So during all this time, what has the U.S. government’s role been?

Well, right after Yemen unified in May 1990, Yemen had the unfortunate opportunity to have a rotating seat on the U.N. Security Council. So they had the seat during the first Gulf War in 1991 and they abstained from that Security Council vote. They did not vote for the coalition in 1990 and they did not vote against it; they abstained. So the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait all punished Yemen by unilaterally cutting all aid to the country. So it was a newly-unified country that had a tremendous amount of aid cut. Millions of Yemeni migrant workers in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were all deported and that had a devastating affect on the economy in Yemen.

But then relations gradually improved, with the U.S. not really having an interest in Yemen. Then, with the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole and subsequent events, the government of Ali Abdullah Saleh has been working very closely with the U.S. government because in some ways these Islamists are threatening to him as well. That said, there’s an Islamist party that’s closely aligned with the regime. So while the government is working with the U.S. to battle extremists, at the same time he’s playing this delicate balancing act that includes allying himself with extremists.

So basically, he’s allying himself with the United States in the war on terror, and with the people who are opposing that at the same time.

Exactly. And I don’t think he’s that brilliant as a politician. It’s just luck that it’s all held together at this point. It’s surprising to me that he’s pulling it off. A lot of people think it could get really bad there really quick.

Already, the Fullbright program has been suspended. People aren’t going there to study or do research. It’s really not safe.

So when you’re watching the news right now, what are you looking for? What are you looking for in these reports that will help you decide what’s going on?

In so much of what’s coming through, I hear mistakes in reports that frustrate me. What I want to know is: Are things realigning? Are new people coming on top? I haven’t seen this in the media, but for example: Saudi Arabia would have a clear interest in Yemen not becoming a failed state. So is Saudi Arabia sending more government and trying to bolster them and is that creating more Wahabi influence? Or this: Are you seeing a lot of the tribal sheiks realigning themselves? Because with that many weapons out of government control a few significant shifts in alignment could be game changers. Those are the kinds of things I’m interested in, but you don’t tend to see them in media a lot.

Jillian Schwedler is a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and author of the book, “Faith in Moderation: Islamist Parties in Jordan and Yemen.”

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An-Nawawi’s 40 Hadith

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

 

 

 

 

Tomb of Imam-Al-Nawawi ra in Bosra- Nawa Town- Syria
Imam Nawawi complete names is Abu Zakaria Mohiuddin Yahya, son of Sharaf AnÄNawawi, and from the family of Imam Hassan and Hussain and Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him.)
Nawawi refers to Nawa, a place near Damascus, in the suburb of the city of Howran.
Imam Nawawi (ra) was born at Nawa in the year 631 A.H. His father, a virtuous and pious man, resolved to arrange for proper and befitting education as he had discovered the symptoms of heavenly intelligence and wisdom in his promising child at an early stage.
Imam’s Simplicity and Niceness of Manners:
The learned persons, elite of the society and the public greatly respected the Imam on account of his piety, learning and excellent character.
He used simple dress and ate simple food. Devout scholars do not care about worldly chattels, they give preference to religious and academic pursuits, propagation of Faith etc.
They experience more heavenly delight and joy in such activities than those who seek satisfaction in luxurious foods, precious clothes and other worldly things. Imam Nawawi had a prominent place among the erudite notables of his age.
He was God-fearing person having illustrious and glorious aims regarding propagation of Faith. Celebrated Sheikh Mohiuddin expresses his impression about Imam Nawawi as thus:
"Imam Nawawi had three distinctive commendable qualities in his person. If anybody have only one out of these three, people return to him in abundance for guidance. First, having knowledge and its dissemination.
Second, to evade completely from the worldly inclinations, and the third, inviting to all that is good (Islam) enjoining Al-Ma’ruf [i.e., Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do] and forbidding Al-Munkar [polytheism and disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden]. Imam Nawawi had all three in him."
http://www.shadpurshareef.com

Mumbai Terror Survivor Embraces Islam

October 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Islamnewsroom.com

NEW YORK – An American Catholic and survivor of a terrorist attack in Mumbai, India last November overcame hatred and opened his mind to learn and discover Islam and becomes a Muslim.

Dennis O’Brien Survivor of Mumbai Terror Attack ACCEPTS ISLAM

Dennis O’Brien, a Catholic, wanted to comprehend the basis of faith of people accused of committing the attack in Mumbai. He discovered in fact, the gunmen were certainly not following Islam at all. In fact, anyone who might take the time to open their eyes, open their minds and open their hearts would have to come to the very same conclusion.

Sunday, just after Eid salat and standing before a crowd of thousands, Dennis O’Brien embraced Islam.

He declared.. ..his belief – “There is only one God and the Prophet Muhammad is his last messenger”.

O’Brien, who heads up the education committee of St Anthony’s Catholic Church in Wilmington, Delaware, says this was a surprise, even to him. But said he was at peace with it.

“Today I feel free of sin,” he remarked.

After several months of studies and asking questions of Muslim friends and associates, “I feel comfort in Islam,” he said.

O’Brien also said he wanted to express solidarity with Muslims, even though extremists who say they practice the faith “tried to kill me”.

Pastor John McGinley, of St Anthony’s, said Sunday he had not heard of O’Brien’s embrace of Islam. McGinley said he knew O’Brien is inquisitive and has expressed concern about the young men involved in the Mumbai attacks.

He would not say if the declaration of another faith would affect O’Brien’s position at the church, noting he had not spoken to him about Sunday’s events. “I think this is part of his journey of faith and we can work with that,” McGinley said.

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Religious Leaders Seek Peace

September 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Stephanie Drum, Christian Newswire

LAKE JUNALUSKA, NC– Over 320 Hebrew, Christian, and Islamic leaders will gather at the second annual Lake Junaluska Peace Conference September 20-22 for a time of learning about one another’s faith traditions, examining what each brings to the search for peace, celebrating our common heritage, and exploring ways we can be more effective “Peace-builders.”

This highly anticipated event features Archbishop Elias Chacour, Dr. Sayyid Syeed, Rabbi Mordechai Liebling and Dr. Lisa Schirch, each with diverse religious backgrounds that will help facilitate dialogues between the three Abrahamic Faiths.

Archbishop Chacour has been a strong voice for peace and reconciliation in Palestine and Israel and has worked with all factions and faiths. Dr. Schirch is professor of peace-building at Eastern Mennonite University. Rabbi Mordechai Liebling serves on the Board of Advisors of COEJL. Dr. Sayyid Syeed, the National Director of Interfaith and Community Alliances for the Islamic Society of North America, has been fostering understanding among the world’s religions and has participated in interfaith dialogues.

Dr. Syeed hopes that at the conference’s conclusion, participants will look for positive aspects of all religions. “People should go with a sense of mission that those of us who are believers have a joint responsibility of working for God’s creation. We want to make sure that intentionally or unintentionally, we don’t harm anyone, and we continue to contribute towards the betterment of God’s creation. This will create a tremendous kind of feeling that we are at peace with our own selves, with our neighborhood, community, and the whole of mankind.”

Speakers from each faith will describe what their scriptures and practices have to bring to the Table of Peace.

“This year’s Peace Conference centers on an issue that has universal implications. There is much agreement that we will not have world-wide peace until the major religions understand each other better and develop genuine respect for one other. As we focus this year on the three Abrahamic Faiths, we hope a significant number of persons from each faith group will be here. Come expecting to be challenged by the presenters. Come with an open mind and an eagerness to enter into creative dialogue with persons of other faiths,” Garland Young, Chair of the Peace Conference Planning Committee, said.

Persons of all faiths are encouraged to attend this event. Please visit www.lakejunaluska.com/peace.aspx for more information.

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Myths and Facts about al-Qaeda

September 3, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

By Karin Friedemann, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

al_qaeda The media myth of a global Islamic conspiracy never got much traction in America before 2001 because the minority Muslim American population simply did not seem like much of a threat, because Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States are loyal US allies, and because Americans generally have a positive attitude toward wealthy investors. After 9/11 pro-Israel propagandists exploited public ignorance and created a nightmarish fantasy of al-Qaeda in order to put the US and allies into conflict with the entire Islamic world. What is al-Qaeda? What do they believe? What do they actually do?

Osama bin Laden first used the term “al-Qaeda” in an interview in 1998, probably in reference to a 1988 article written by Palestinian activist Abdullah Azzam entitled “al-Qa`ida al-Sulba” (the Solid Foundation). In it, Azzam elaborates upon the ideas of the Egyptian scholar Sayed Qutb to explain modern jihadi principles. Qutb, author of Social Justice in Islam, is viewed as the founder of modern Arab-Islamic political religious thought. Qutb is comparable to John Locke in Western political development. Both Azzam and Qutb were serious men of exceptional integrity and honor.

While Qutb was visiting the USA in 1949, he and several friends were turned away from a movie theater because the owner thought they were black. ‘But we’re Egyptians,’ one of the group explained. The owner apologized and offered to let them in, but Qutb refused, galled by the fact that black Egyptians could be admitted but black Americans could not,” recounts Lawrence Wright in The Looming Tower. Qutb predicted that the struggle between Islam and materialism would define the modern world. He embraced martyrdom in 1966 in rejection of Arab socialist politics.

Azzam similarly rejected secular Palestinian nationalist politics as an impediment to moral virtue. He opposed terrorist attacks on civilians and had strong reservations about ideas like offensive jihad, or preventive war. He also hesitated to designate any Muslim leader as an apostate and preferred to allow God to make such judgments. Inspired by the courage and piety of Afghan Muslims struggling against the Soviets, Azzam reinterpreted Qutb’s concept of individual and collective obligation of Muslims in his fatwa entitled “Defense of the Muslim Lands, the First Obligation after Iman (Faith).” Qutb would have prioritized the struggle of Egyptian Muslims to transform Egypt into a virtuous Islamic state while Azzam argued that every individual Muslim had an obligation to come to the aid of oppressed Muslims everywhere, whether they are Afghan, Kosovar, Bosnian, Thai, Filipino, or Chechen.

John Calvert of Creighton University writes, “This ideology… would soon energize the most significant jihad movement of modern times.”

At Azzam’s call, Arabs from many countries joined America’s fight against Communism in Afghanistan. No Arab jihadi attack was considered terrorism when Azzam led the group, or later when bin Laden ran the group. Because the global Islamic movement overlapped with the goals of the US government, Arab jihadis worked and traveled frictionlessly throughout the world between Asia, Arabia and America. Azzam was assassinated in Pakistan in 1989, but legends of the courageous sacrifices of the noble Arab Afghans energized the whole Islamic world.

After the Soviets left Afghanistan, bin Laden relocated to Sudan in 1992. At the time he was probably undisputed commander of nothing more than a small group, which became even smaller after he lost practically all his money on Sudan investments. He returned to Afghanistan in 1996, where the younger Afghans, the Taliban welcomed him on account of his reputation as a veteran war hero.

There is no real evidence that bin Laden or al-Qaeda had any connection to the Ugandan and Tanzanian embassy attacks or any of the numerous attacks for which they have been blamed. Pro-Israel propagandists like Daniel Pipes or Matthew Levitt needed an enemy for their war against Muslim influence on American culture more than random explosions in various places needed a central commander. By the time the World Trade Center was destroyed, the Arab fighters surrounding Osama bin Laden were just a dwindling remnant living on past glories of Afghanistan’s struggle against Communism. Al-Qaeda has never been and certainly is not today an immensely powerful terror organization controlling Islamic banks and charities throughout the world.

Al-Qaeda maintained training camps in Afghanistan like Camp Faruq, where Muslims could receive basic training just as American Jews go to Israel for military training with the IDF. There they learned to disassemble, clean and reassemble weapons, and got to associate with old warriors, who engaged in great heroism against the Soviets but did not do much since. Many al-Qaeda trainees went on to serve US interests in Central Asia (e.g. Xinjiang) in the 1990s but from recent descriptions the camps seem to currently provide a form of adventure tourism with no future enlistment obligations.

Although western media treats al-Qaeda as synonymous with Absolute Evil, much of the world reveres the Arab Afghans as martyr saints. Hundreds of pilgrims visit Kandahar’s Arab cemetery daily, believing that the graves of those massacred in the 2001 US bombing of Afghanistan possess miraculous healing powers.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer on Middle East affairs and US politics. She is Director of the Division on Muslim Civil Rights and Liberties for the National Association of Muslim American Women. Joachim Martillo contributed to this article.

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Muslims and Climate Change

September 3, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

plant-a-tree Muslims are 1/3 of the world. How can they contribute to saving the earth? I am trying to focus on world’s one third population who are not paying attention about their claim in associating  themselves with their beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) while He was the staunch advocator for the cause of environmental protection. According to Prophet (s) (hadith-by Al-Bukhari) “There is none amongst the believers who plants a tree, or sows a seed, and then a bird, or a person, or an animal eats thereof, but it is regarded as having given a charitable gift”[for which there is great recompense].

On various occasions, it’s been reported that the Prophet (s) had given plenty of importance toward cultivation of land…

See better treatment for animals; special concern for the preservation of water, plant and birds.

Importance of Planting a Tree in Islam

Citing the Prophet’s (s) concern about plants, Qumruzzaman Azmi-Secretary General of the World Islamic Mission, Manchester(UK), said that Prophet (s) says, if a person is dying and he or she gets the chance to plant a tree then do it before dying. Azmi further quoted the Prophet (s) “if the people knew the importance and benefit of planting a tree, there wouldn’t be a single place on earth left treeless.”

According to a prominent Muslim scholar, Dr. Al-Qaradawi, Prophet (s) said “He who cuts a lote-tree (without justification), God will send him to Hellfire.

(this is a much needed tree found in the desert area  with scarce vegetation)

This Hadith gives value to even one tree so we can figure out that how much destructive it is in destroying millions of trees; spoiling the earth’s resources; causing destruction for ozone layer etc.

Encouraging to Cultivate Wasteland

In order to protect the natural resources and preserve the balance existing between the diverse elements of nature in the environment, Al-Qaradawi further quotes the Prophet (s) who not only encouraged the sustainable use of fertile lands, He also told his followers of the benefits of making unused land productive: planting a tree, sowing a seed and irrigating dry land were all regarded as charitable deeds. “Whoever brings dead land to life, that is, cultivates wasteland, for him is a reward therein.”

Essentially, it is prohibited by Islam to let the land set idle for a long time without working it out, quoted  by Iqbual Nadvi from ICNA(Islamic Circle of North America).

Water Conservation

For the purpose of saving water, the Prophet (s) strictly abstained His followers from wasting a single drop of water while making Wadu( a ritual of removing impurity) . He also recommended repeating each thing not more than three times while performing Wudu, even if they are sitting near lake, river or a flowing spring.

In fact, there are innumerable instances which substantiate the intimate relation of the Prophet with Earth, Water, Land and Animal.

In the context of treating birds, He says “If anyone wrongfully kills even a sparrow, let alone anything greater, he will face God’s interrogation” [Mishkat al Masabih].

Reducing Animal Cruelty

Prophet Muhammad (s) taught his followers to be gentle and cautious at the time of slaughtering animals. He advised to use sharp knives following a civilized method in slaughtering the animals so that it could minimize the risk of  hurting  and facilitating  them to die quickly with little pain.

However, He forbade sharpening the knives and slaughtering any animal in the presence of other animals which, essentially, shows the dignity toward the animal. Prophet used to give special consideration to camel and horses as the most useful animal for journey and battle.

Obama’s View

Addressing in Cairo, US President Barack Obama inspired the Muslim World by inculcating them:” As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam – at places like Al-Azhar University – that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance  and Enlightenment.”

The Qur’an says, mankind holds a privileged position among God’s creations on earth: he is chosen as khalifa (vice-regent), and carries the responsibility of caring for God’s earthly creations. Each individual is given this task and privilege in the form of God’s trust. But the Qur’an repeatedly warns believers against arrogance: they are no better than other creatures.

“No creature is there on earth nor a bird flying with its wings but they are nations like you

[Qur’an 6:38]

“Surely the creation of the heavens and the earth is greater than the creation of man; but most people know not.”

[Qur’an 40:57]

Protecting Eco-System

In the thesis, submitted into UNO, Professor Dr. Farooq Hassan-President

Pakistan Ecology Council, says: protecting the environment and eco-systems of the earth are a major concern of the Islamic Faith. If the situation of the environment keeps deteriorating at the present rate, there will ultimately be no life, no property and no religion left.

As we face the effects of pollution and water scarcity in some parts of the world and floods and violent storms elsewhere, now it’s time for the world

community as a whole, Muslims, Christians and Jews, Hindus and Buddhists, atheists and agnostics, to take a leaf out of the Prophet’s book and address the current environmental crisis seriously and wisely.

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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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Harun Yahya – Secrets of the Hypocrites

July 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

They Remember Allah Only Rarely

Recite what has been revealed to you of the Book and perform prayer. Prayer precludes indecency and wrongdoing. And remembrance of Allah is greater still. Allah knows what you do.

Al-‘Ankabut: 45

As the above verse reveals, recalling Allah is one of a believers’ most important religious observances. People with true faith know that they live each moment among the blessings imparted by Him and constantly give thanks to Allah. They know that they are in absolute need of auspicious events that come from Him, that they must account for themselves to Him in the Hereafter, and that they can enter Paradise only if He so wills it. Allah is always in their hearts and on their tongues. They remember Him at every opportunity, and speak of the blessings He has given them, expecting nothing in return, and the perfect equilibrium in the universe created by Him.

Since hypocrites, on the other hand, do not possess such faith in their hearts, they fail to call upon Allah as they ought. The reason behind this is that they do not submit to Him sincerely and have no deep faith in Him. They are therefore unwilling to remember Him, because in doing so, they will also be repeating many things that they do not actually believe in—or which they are responsible for doing, but have failed to do. This may put them off, since it will impinge slightly on their consciences. Even if they do imitate believers and attempt to sincerely recite His names, still they will give themselves away and thus, have no effect on the hearts of those who hear them. Therefore, while in the midst of believers, they attract attention by remembering Him only seldom and in a superficial way.

Indeed, Allah has revealed this important sign that reveals the sickness in their hearts by means of verses:

. . . [They are] showing off to people, and only remembering Allah a very little.

An-Nisa’: 142

Satan has gained mastery over them and made them forget the remembrance of Allah . . .

Al-Mujadala: 19

They Ascribe Partners to Allah

Believing in powers besides Allah, assuming that they can play a part in creation, the running of the universe, or making judgments, for example, is one of the main characteristics of hypocrites. They believe that human beings are independent of Allah and thus set up partners beside Him, no matter how much they may deny it. What gives their sickness away is that they do not like Allah to be remembered as the One and Only. They are unable to recall Allah by praising Him as they ought. This is one of the features that give them away:

We have placed covers on their hearts, preventing them from understanding it, and heaviness in their ears. When you mention your Lord alone in the Qur’an, they turn their backs and run away.

Al-Isra’: 46

When Allah is mentioned on His own, the hearts of those who do not believe in the Hereafter shrink back shuddering, but when others apart from Him are mentioned, they jump for joy.

Az-Zumar: 45

They Fear Other People, not Allah

Hypocrites claim that they love Allah, and everything they do is intended to gain His approval. However, these words actually represent their way of avoiding putting Allah’s commandments and recommendations into practice.

Someone who sincerely believes in Allah feels not only love for Him, but also a fear filled with awe. In other words, the person who loves Allah best is, at the same time, one who fears Him the most because, as we have emphasized from the outset, loving Allah requires one to recognize His all “beauteous names,” and that He will manifest His infinite might—and when necessary, justice, through the torments He will give. Those incapable of appreciating Allah’s might, who do not understand that He witnesses their every action, do not fear our Lord. If someone says, “I love Allah, but do not fear Him,” or gives the impression of thinking along those lines, then that person is insincere in the most literal sense of the word.

Indeed, when we look at the lives of hypocrites, we see that this spiritual condition prevails throughout their behavior. The hypocrite claims to fear Allah, but when we look at the practicalities of the matter, we see that he seeks to harm the believers, works against them and makes up slanders about them. The picture that emerges from this is that this person does not truly fear Allah. Furthermore, as stated above, the hypocrite produces his own religious conception and lives according to the twisted laws of that religion, in order to win the approval of others. Indeed, he believes that all individuals have a unique power. He feels obliged to earn the approval and liking of each and every one.

However, the one fact that he cannot comprehend is that every human being is merely a servant created by Allah. Each is an entity who has come into being at Allah’s desire and will die in the same way. The hypocrite is unable to comprehend this—or rather, is unwilling to, because in his own religion, gaining the approval of others is an essential obligation. His fears are equally founded on that basis.

The way hypocrites fear other people and always seek their approval will reveal itself in times of difficulty. The Qur’an refers to hypocrites being terrified when they see people united against them. At first, they promised that they would definitely take part in the war. But when the order for battle came, the fear they felt carried their faith away with it:

Don’t you see those who were told: “Hold back from fighting but perform prayer and give the alms?” Then when fighting is prescribed for them, a group of them fear people as Allah should be feared, or even more than that. They say, “Our Lord, why have you prescribed fighting for us? If only You would give us just a little more time!” Say, “The enjoyment of this world is very brief. The Hereafter is better for those who guard against evil. You will not be wronged by so much as the smallest speck.”

An-Nisa’: 77

They Betray the Religion of Allah

Hypocrites, who do not fear Allah and who live by their own erroneous understanding of religion, thus exhibit no devotion to His religion. They are constantly betraying the messenger of Allah and the faithful, in their struggle to abide by the moral values of the Qur’an. Their betrayal is described in the Qur’an in these terms:

But because of their breaking of their covenant, We have cursed them and made their hearts hard. They distort the true meaning of words and have forgotten a good portion of what they were reminded of. You will never cease to come upon some act of treachery on their part, except for a few of them. . . .

Al-Ma’ida: 13

The hypocrite is aware that he is a fraud. Behaving in such a way as to deceive Allah, His messenger and believers, he lives in a constant spirit of betrayal. Every betrayal leads to another, because the hypocrite is aware of his own treachery. Even if he conceals himself from believers, he cannot hide himself from himself. And since he witnesses his own sins, his excesses increase still further. First he says something bad about the messenger of Allah, and takes pleasure from this. Later he slanders the messenger, and that too he enjoys—because he is moving along the path of satan, his true friend. Then he sets a trap for the messenger. His crimes multiply and increase. However, he is also unaware that his betrayals of Allah, His messenger and the faithful will avail him nothing, but that, on the contrary, they will lead him to Hell. On the basis of this, he is easily able to engage in betrayal. The fact is, however, that in addition to the troubles he will experience in this world, a punishment full of suffering also awaits him in the next. Allah reveals the fate of hypocrites in another verse:

Allah has promised the men and women of the hypocrites and disbelievers the Fire of Hell, remaining in it timelessly, for ever. It will suffice them. Allah has cursed them. They will have everlasting punishment.

At-Tawba: 68

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Harun Yahya – Secrets of the Hypocrites

July 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

They are Fragmented   

. . . Their hostility towards each other is intense. They are full of bravado in each other’s company. You consider them united, but their hearts are scattered wide. . . .

Al-Hashr: 14

Although they take only each other as their friends and confidants, actually they do not trust each other. The reason for this is that just as they are subconsciously aware of their own two-facedness, they know that the hypocrite before them is equally two-faced. This prevents them from being true friends to one another.

Hypocrites may imagine that there is great unity among them, but never actually experience any form of warm friendship, love or brotherhood among each other. Their hearts are too unclean and hardened to be able to harbor feelings of that kind. They can talk against one another in the face of the slightest difficulty with no qualms at all, and try to ensnare one another. They are perfectly capable of discounting everyone around them for the sake of their own interests.

Their Faith in Allah

One distinguishing characteristic of hypocrites is that their faith in Allah is restricted to words. Every hypocrite claims to have faith, to fear Allah and to believe in the Hereafter and the Day of Judgment. Yet from their lifestyles and states of mind, it can be seen that these claims are not sincere.

In order to understand the state of hypocrites’ faith, the following point needs to be clarified: What does “faith in Allah” actually mean?

When people speak of faith in Allah, they generally think that Allah initially created all things and then left human beings to their own “intelligence.” (Surely Allah is beyond that!) Yet belief in Allah is a far deeper matter than the way it is popularly conceived. Faith in Allah gives rise to various consequences. For instance, someone with faith is capable of appreciating Allah’s greatness, infinite might and justice, and all His superior titles, as revealed in the verse, “To Allah belong the Most Beautiful Names” (Surat al-A‘raf: 180). In addition, someone with faith in Allah will have a great fear of Him, since he has comprehended His infinite might.

However, people who do not understand true faith have a twisted belief in Allah, as stated earlier. Indeed, these ridiculous beliefs of deniers, “unique to themselves,” are revealed in these terms in verses:

If you asked them, “Who created the heavens and the Earth?” they would say, “Allah!” Say: “Praise be to Allah!” But most of them do not know.

Luqman: 25

If you ask them, “Who created the heavens and the Earth?” they will say, “Allah.” Say: “So what do you think? If Allah desires harm for me, can those you call upon besides Allah remove His harm? Or if He desires mercy for me, can they withhold His mercy?” Say: “Allah is enough for me. All those who truly trust put their trust in Him.”

Az-Zumar: 38

As can be seen from these verses, people generally regard Allah as the Creator of the Earth and heavens. However, they are unable to appreciate Him properly, and fail to comprehend that He maintains all things under His dominion at all times, and that He is possessed of infinite might.

Hypocrites, as one group from the larger body of deniers, have just such a faith. The only thing separating them from other deniers is that their hearts are even harder. That is because they once had faith, but have now turned to denial, for which reason Allah has closed their hearts to faith:

That is because they have believed and then returned to disbelief. So their hearts have been sealed up and they cannot understand.

Al-Munafiqun: 3

What becomes apparent at this point is that hypocrites have no fear of Allah. Being people who know religious moral values and who have called on all the titles, greatness and might of Allah while they were together with believers, the way that hypocrites fail to fulfill His commandments is clear proof of their lack of fear.

Hypocrites are “fair weather” Muslims, as the saying goes. Since their aims are to secure their own advantages and spread strife—and most important of all, since they fail to fear Allah as they ought—they reveal their true ugly faces at the slightest difficulty. Allah has informed believers just how superficial the faith of hypocrites is in these verses:

There are some people who say, “We believe in Allah,” and then, when they suffer harm in Allah’s cause, they take people’s persecution for Allah’s punishment; but if help comes from your Lord they say, “We were with you.” Does Allah not know best what is in every person’s heart? Allah knows those who believe and He knows the hypocrites.

Al-‘Ankabut: 10-11

It will be appropriate now to examine the causes and consequences of hypocrites’ distant and fearless attitude towards Allah. (Surely Allah is beyond that!)

They Become Caught up in Assumptions Regarding Allah

Since hypocrites are unable to appreciate the might of Allah properly, they have a number of mistaken preconceptions about Him. As described earlier, particularly when they encounter a difficulty, they forget Allah and imagine that whatever is taking place is doing so independently of Him. (Surely Allah is beyond that!) They become caught up in a panic that no true believer in Allah ever displays. They never think that Allah has sent them this difficulty to test them, and immediately turn to rebellion.

The Qur’an describes the thoughts that hypocrites harbored regarding Allah when they went to war along with His Messenger and came face to face with the danger of death or being injured:

When they came at you from above you and below you, when eyes rolled and hearts rose to the throats, and you thought unworthy thoughts about Allah, at that point the believers were tested and severely shaken. When the hypocrites and people with sickness in their hearts said, “What Allah and His Messenger promised us was mere delusion.”

Al-Ahzab: 10-12

As we have seen, the moment they encountered a difficulty, they lost their faith, which they had previously claimed to be very strong, and forgot the greatness and might of Allah. This shows that they were never actually sincere in their faith and never possessed a perfected faith. No matter what circumstances or conditions someone may find himself in, it is out of the question for one with true faith in Allah to forget His might, fall a prey to unhappiness, or engage in imaginings about Him. People bound to Allah with a genuine faith know that the Creator of all things tests His servants with the good and the bad.

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New Muslim Cool

June 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Former Drug Dealer Struggles to Transform Himself and His Community Through His Faith and His Music

Produced in Association with Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) And the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM)

42-392_01_NewMuslimCoolWEB

“New Muslim Cool transcends race, ethnicity, class and religion. Like hip-hop culture, the film is all about irrepressible social transformation and empowerment.” – Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Hip-Hop Summit Action Network

New Muslim Cool is Islam as you have never seen it. It is also hip-hop as you have probably never heard it. This new film, which opens the 22nd season of P.O.V., PBS’s award-winning nonfiction film series, gives audiences an insider’s view of a little-known cultural fusion between Muslims and street beats that has been developing since the very beginnings of hip-hop culture. The result is a surprising challenge to stereotypes of both Muslims and urban youth in America that encourages viewers to look critically at the “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West.

Jennifer Maytorena Taylor’s New Muslim Cool has its national broadcast premiere on P.O.V. on Tuesday, June 23, 2009, at 10 p.m. (Check local listings.) American television’s longest-running independent documentary series, P.O.V. received a 2007 Emmy for Excellence in Television Documentary Filmmaking. The 2009 season of P.O.V. continues each Tuesday at 10 p.m. through Sept. 22, with two specials in November and January. 

New Muslim Cool is more than another hybrid hip-hop story. It’s also the story of a man coming of age, facing his deepest questions about his faith, trying to keep his family safe and learning how to hold himself accountable. A decade ago, Hamza, born Jason, was a drug dealer on America’s mean streets. The child of Puerto Rican parents, he had two recurring, competing dreams at night: in one he was in prison by age 21, and in the other he was dead. New Muslim Cool is the story of how, as Hamza laughingly puts it, “both [dreams] came true,” albeit in unpredictable ways.

Indeed, when Hamza was 21, he was hanging out with friends and getting high when a chance encounter with an “old sheikh” transformed his life. The death he experienced was “a death of all my past, the negative,” he says. He gave up drugs and the street life and converted to Islam. He then went further, becoming active in forming a community of Latino and African-American Muslims, many of whom, like Hamza, were former street hustlers and drug dealers. The community ultimately moved from Massachusetts to Pittsburgh, Pa., with Hamza bringing along his son and, after the breakup of his first marriage, his daughter.

As part of their efforts to build a community that would reconcile their heritage with their new faith, Hamza and his brother, Sulaiman, formed the rap group Mujahideen Team (M-Team). M-Team strives to use knowledge gained in the streets to put Islam’s religious message into a familiar context. Ultimately, Hamza would bring that message to prisons, fulfilling his other dream in a way he had never imagined.

Early on in the film, Hamza and Sulaiman joke about the exotic hybridization their faith and community embody. “See, we don’t speak full Arabic,” says Hamza, “but we know Arabic Spanglish Ebonics.” The two men’s conversion has largely bewildered their family, who raised them as Roman Catholics. The family’s initial upset has been tempered by gratitude that the brothers’ new faith has gotten them off drugs and away from other dangerous pursuits. Yet the family also feels some discomfort over the tough lyrics Hamza and Sulaiman use as M-Team.

With their unflinchingly critical words and intense stage performance – complete with flaming machetes – Hamza and Sulaiman attempt to carve out a place for themselves in the tradition of protest poetry, up from the rawest roots of hip-hop. Within the Muslim hip-hop world, they are recognized as heirs to the tradition of artists like the Last Poets and Public Enemy, freely criticizing the government and many elements of modern society. But their music also draws scrutiny and eventually complicates Hamza’s life, even as he begins to grow and embrace a softer way of expressing himself.

The struggle to make his community thrive, raise his kids, build a new marriage and, paradoxically, deal with an FBI investigation of his group’s new mosque in Pittsburgh, Pa., all serve to deepen Hamza’s study of and thinking about Islam and the plight of the poor and imprisoned in America.

Hamza begins to reach out to prisoners, using his faith and struggles to inspire them. His work also leads him into surprising alliances with ministries of other religions that, like his own, seek to build a road to redemption from the nation’s jails.

Says director/producer Jennifer Maytorena Taylor, “New Muslim Cool came out of my long-standing interest in the power of pop music and culture to create social change and a deep feeling that we urgently need to look for common ground as our world grows increasingly diverse and interconnected. This is a story about who we all are as a country, making choices about our deepest values in tough times and continually redefining what it means to be American.”

New Muslim Cool is a production of Specific Pictures in association with Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) and the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM).

About the Filmmaker:

Jennifer Maytorena Taylor, Producer/Director

Jennifer Maytorena Taylor’s works explore the connection between the personal and the socio-political, and frequently feature Latino themes and Spanish-language content. Her documentary credits include “Paulina,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was broadcast by the Sundance Channel; the Emmy-winning “Home Front,” a co-production with KQED-TV San Francisco; “Immigration Calculations”; “Ramadan Primetime”; and, most recently, “Special Circumstances,” which will air nationally on PBS as part of the Voces series in 2009. She is a recipient of the James D. Phelan Art Award for her body of work.

She has produced short stories for the public television series “California Connected” and “Keeping Kids Healthy” and co-produced Sophia Constantinou’s history of Cyprus, “Divided Loyalties” for the Sundance Channel. Jennifer also worked as an associate and co-producer with Lourdes Portillo on Corpus: A Home Movie for Selena (P.O.V. 1999) and Señorita Extraviada (P.O.V. 2002), two award-winning documentaries that had their national broadcast premieres on PBS.

Fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, Jennifer has worked throughout the United States, in Latin America and in Europe. She is a native Californian of Irish and Mexican heritage and was raised in Los Angeles and Vermont. 

11-27

Harun Yahya – Secrets of the Hypocrites

June 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Continuation of the book by Harun Yahya, The Secrets of the Hypocrites.

They Spend on Things That They Themselves Do Not Like

. . . Do not have recourse to bad things when you give, things you would take only with your eyes tight shut! Know that Allah is Rich Beyond Need, Praiseworthy.

Al-Baqara: 267

Even if hypocrites do spend generously, nevertheless they spend on things that do not appeal to them. This is at the same time a rule of the Religion of the Ignorant. The things given away by hypocrites, who spend on things that serve no purpose solely in order to put on a show for believers, are unacceptable. Allah states the reason for this in the Qur’an:

Nothing prevents what they give from being accepted from them but the fact that they have rejected Allah and His messenger, and that they only come to prayer lethargically, and that they only give reluctantly.

At-Tawba: 54

They Have Sharp Tongues

. . . when fear departs they flay you with sharp tongues, grasping for wealth. Such people disbelieve and Allah will make their actions come to nothing. That is easy for Allah.

Al-Ahzab: 19

Despite being timid and weak, hypocrites still seek to attack the faithful and hurt them with their harsh words. Interestingly, the environment in which they find the courage to do this is one where they feel secure and where they imagine there is no question of any danger. The preceding verse makes this clear.

Satan is the source of all this behavior. As we know, satan seeks to block the true path before people and to do them harm. With this satanically inspired aspect, hypocrites seek to harm believers and make them uneasy, seizing every opportunity of doing so. Yet they can never harm believers in any way.

They are Skeptical

. . . They too were in a state of crippling doubt.

Saba’: 54

Hypocrites constantly feel doubt in their hearts. This skepticism is directed towards such basic elements of the religion as the Qur’an, the messenger and the Hereafter.

Due to the sickness in their hearts, their consciences are never at ease. On the one hand they witness believers’ devotion to Allah, and on the other, they realize the false nature of their own desires. Indeed, Allah refers to the hypocrites who constructed a mosque in the time of the Prophet (saas) apart from the Muslims, saying that the skepticism stemming from the sickness in their hearts would continue forever:

The buildings they have built will not cease to be a bone of suspicion in their hearts, until their hearts are cut to shreds. . . .

At-Tawba: 110

They do not trust people. They doubt everyone, fearing that any moment, someone will set a trap for them or else belittle them. They do this to such an extent that in one verse, Allah says of them “They imagine every cry to be against them. . .” (Surat al-Munafiqun: 4). They harbor such concerns because they do not place their trust in Allah and do not take Him as their friend.

They are Cruel

. . . Those who do not judge by what Allah has sent down, such people are wrongdoers.

Al-Ma’ida: 45

One thing that believers seek to achieve in this world is to replace cruelty and wickedness with truth and goodness. Those ideals stem from their proper moral values, and they subscribe to this obligation because of their fear of Allah.

Engaging in a struggle against believers who wish to put an end to the cruelty prevailing in the Society of the Ignorant and to replace it with goodness—and in addition, doing so by entering among them and while in their midst—clearly reveals the cruel souls possessed by hypocrites.

Having gone back on their faith after having believed, hypocrites cannot save themselves from falling into a mindset of cruelty. Therefore, they are unable to live lives full of peace and security, as they had imagined.

Indeed, as is revealed in the verse, “Those who believe and do not mix up their faith with any wrongdoing, they are the ones who are safe; it is they who are guided” (Surat al-An‘am: 82), peace and security are a blessing that only the faithful, who act with determination in their faith, can enjoy.

Their External Appearances are Deceptive

When you see them, their outward form appeals to you, and if they speak you listen to what they say. But they are like propped-up planks of wood. . . .

Al-Munafiqun: 4

So long as they live in this world, hypocrites are unaware that they will be gravely disappointed in the Hereafter. On the contrary, they imagine that they are destined for Paradise. One of the chief reasons for their self-deception lies in their technical and physical values.

For example, a hypocrite may be wealthy or physically attractive. But even if that person regards this as an advantage, in fact it represents a test. The hypocrite who is taken in by his wealth, property or attractiveness imagines that everything is going well and continues to live at ease. Unknown to him, however, an account is being kept of all his deeds, and he will be recompensed with suffering in Hell for all the evil he commits.

Furthermore, as already stated, Allah permits them to live in this world for a specific period of time, and when their time comes, He shows His messenger and believers the dark state of mind within the hypocrites. Thus Muslims who perceive hypocrisy will not be taken in by its deceptive external appearances, but rather fulfill Allah’s commandment and engage in a struggle against it.

They are Among the Lowest in Creation

. . . They have hearts they do not understand with. They have eyes they do not see with. They have ears they do not hear with. Such people are like cattle. No, they are even further astray! . . .

Al-A’raf: 179

Allah describes them in this way because even though they are aware of His existence, have learned the commandments and recommendations of the Qur’an, and know of the messenger and the believers; they turn their backs on all these and turn away from faith, towards denial. Since they fail to believe when called upon to do so and do not fear Allah as they should, He has evidently created them with a lower character even than that of animals, and has informed believers of the fact.

Our Prophet (saas) has described hypocrites as “the worst of people:”

“You will find the worst of people are the two-faced who come to these people with one face and those people with another face.”

Sahih Bukhari

11-26

Community News (V10-I30)

July 17, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Mohammad Khan, President and Founder. ViVotech is the President and Founder of ViVOtech Inc.

Mr. Khan held several engineering, marketing, and business development management positions during the 15 years he worked with VeriFone.

Joining VeriFone in its early stage in 1983, Mr. Khan helped the company develop its payment automation systems and later helped successfully market these products in more than 96 countries.

Included were the smart card and security payment products he conceived for VeriFone and launched to its worldwide markets in the early ‘90s.

Mr. Khan was also a co-founder of the Internet Commerce Division within VeriFone and was responsible for expansion of its Internet payment systems business into more than 25 countries. Khan is a co-founder of Sparkice, Inc., China’s e-Hub for global commerce, where he worked as its senior vice president.

Mr. Khan holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. In 2006 Mohammad Khan was recognized as a leader of the Electronic Payments Industry by the Transaction Trends Magazine and in 2005 as a “Mover and Shaker” of the Electronic Payments Industry by the Transaction World magazine.

ViVOtech is a market leader in contactless payment software, over the air (OTA) card provisioning, promotion, and transaction management infrastructure software, NFC smart posters, and contactless readers/writers.

These innovative solutions allow consumers to make contactless payments with radio frequency-enabled credit cards, debit cards, key fobs, and NFC-enabled mobile phones. ViVOtech’s products are used by some of the most prominent retailers in the United States.

ViVOtech’s products are in use at movie theaters, fast food restaurants (QSR), casual dining establishments, convenience stores, gas stations, drug stores, grocery stores, buses, taxicabs and vending machine locations, enabling a wide variety of businesses to accept contactless payments.

Nevada brings people of diverse faiths together

LAS VEGAS–With an interfaith picnic Sunday, Nevada showed to the world that Christians (various denominations), Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and others could discuss similarities and differences in their religions across the picnic tables and make friends with people of “other” faith.

There were prayers in Hebrew, Sanskrit, Arabic, and English when Christians Muslims, Hindus, Jews and others gathered at Second Annual Northern Nevada Interfaith Community Picnic in Rancho San Rafael Park of Reno.

Besides coordinators Methodist Pastor John J. Auer, Rabbi Myra Soifer, Imam Abdul Rahim Barghouthi, several other religious leaders from the area participated in the event.

Muslim and Christian leaders to meet at Yale

NEW HAVEN–More than 150 Muslim and Christian leaders, including some of the world’s most eminent scholars and clerics, will gather at Yale University July 28-31 to promote understanding between the two faiths, whose members comprise more than half the world’s population.

Prominent political figures and representatives of the Jewish community also will speak at the conference, which launches a series of interfaith events planned around the world over the next two years.

These gatherings respond to the call for dialogue issued in an open letter, A Common Word Between Us and You, written by major Islamic leaders, to which Yale scholars responded with a statement that garnered over 500 signatures.

A watershed in Muslim-Christian relations, this interfaith meeting was organized by Yale Divinity School’s Center for Faith & Culture under the leadership of its founder and director, Miroslav Volf, together with the director of the Center’s Reconciliation Program, Joseph Cumming. Volf will co-teach a course on faith and globalization at Yale this fall with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

“I firmly believe that few things are more vital to our shared future than that people of different faiths understand each other better, respect each other more, and work together more closely. That is why I, along with countless others, was hugely encouraged when A Common Word was published.

I warmly welcome the fact that one of the world’s premier academic institutions, by hosting this gathering, is seeking to carry the debate and the dialogue further and deeper,” said former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Yale Divinity School Dean Harold Attridge said, “I am extremely pleased that Yale Divinity School is hosting this important conference.

The Divinity School is committed to bringing the best insights of faith and intellect to bear on contemporary life, and the relationship between Christians and Muslims is one of the most pressing issues of our time.”

Notable leaders expected at the conference include Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan; former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi of Sudan; top Evangelical leaders Leith Anderson and Geoff Tunnicliffe; prominent Ayatollahs from Iran; Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi of Palestine, Grand Muftis of several Middle Eastern countries; Antonios Kireopoulos of the National Council of Churches; and John Esposito of Georgetown University. Senator John Kerry as well as other senior U.S. government officials also are expected to attend.

Residents pack meeting on Wallingford Mosque

WALLINGFORD, CT-Residents opposed to the construction of a mosque in Wallingford packed  Planning and Zoning Committee meeting. They held signs saying they don’t want any new development in the area.

The dispute is over the construction of the Salma K.Farid Islamic Centre on a 6.5 acre site. The mosque which would serve up to thirty people on Fridays is being built by Tariq Farid,39, a successful entrepreneur in the area.

Opponents of the mosque say that they are concerned about traffic. Some of them denied that they are anti-Islamic and said that they are only opposed to development.

A recent traffic study found the intersection and road satisfactory for the mosque’s traffic projections.

The Planning and Zoning Committee is expected to vote on the subject in September.

10-30

South Asian Traditional Islam vs Western Islam

April 24, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Courtesy “Yursil”

After reading through a number of works discussing South Asian Islamic history, and also many of the references, I have thought a lot more deeply about the traditions of South Asian culture than my last series of posts on this subject. Every time I read the numerous moving stories, I marveled at how totally lost Muslim South Asians, especially expatriates and their children, have become from their traditional past. While the first Masjid in India was built in Kodungallur by Malik Bin Deenar(R), a Sahabi (during the Prophet’s (s) lifetime), it certainly seems that most of what occurred after that point has been forgotten by South Asian Muslims living abroad.

The Islam that I experienced in American South Asian dominated mosques and organizations was so utterly disconnected from the traditional understanding of Islam of India, that without being mentally prepared, I would certainly have considered what I was reading as pure fiction. The attraction of Muslim South Asians in America to various agenda-driven forms of Islam (and their lack of awareness as to their shifted reality by these agendas) has been complete and total. This has made the alien into the norm and the norm into the alien.

The sheer volume of information on the subject of the spirituality, plurality, tolerance and strength of South Asian Muslims, combined with the natural understanding as to how South Asian society flourished with Muslim and Hindu interaction for over the 1400 years, makes it clear that the fiction was that which I was sold most of my youth.

In fact, it was the desire and clearly defined curriculum of organizations such as ICNA and early administrations of the various masjids that I attended (dominated by South Asians at nearly all levels of organization) that Muslim youth study the life and works of Seyyid Qutb, Maududi, and Bilal Phillips.

This created an entire generation (including most of my friends) that had never heard the name of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti (R) much less the name of a single one of the countless saints buried in South Asia. The importance of knowing those names (and therefore, understanding and respecting their teachings) is vitally important for immigrant South Asian Muslims in the West for a proper return to the spiritually moving faith connected to the Prophet (S), as practiced by these holy people who carried Islam to us.

The difference between what has become ‘modern Islam’ and the traditional Islam of South Asia and other traditional Muslim communities is striking.

One is focused on a singular attempt at ‘authenticity’ and ‘purification’ of Islam using new understandings of Hadith and discussing their authenticity, the other is focused on the application of the immediate tradition for the purpose of bettering the soul.

One is focused on the political, absorbing worldly power and doing so with various levels of crassness, looking for religious and legal legitimacy the entire time, while the other has always been about building bridges between hearts with subtlety and care.

The Islam of South Asians in the West has mirrored that of converts. Many converts were in love of the faith of Islam primarily due to its claim of textual authenticity of the Quran (and hence the faith), which was unchanged for centuries. This was in stark comparison to the faiths of the West which suffered from deep questions of relevancy and authenticity, faiths which they had left for just those reasons. There is no doubt that the weight of the extreme desire for textual authenticity led to the ‘off’ switch of South Asian immigrants in examining the Islamic faith as understood by their families for generations.

The lack of textual information about Islam in South Asia certainly did not help. Modern South Asians were brought up appreciating the written word much more than that spoken word, a side effect of making education the largest priority in their lives (a means to escape poverty of the homeland). The idea of following a way of life which couldn’t be immediately checked, verified, and looked up for confirmation led most to the path of various forms of Wahabism.

Of course, most of groups eschewed the name ‘Wahabi’ itself, preferring to claim the title ‘Muslim’ for themselves. Interestingly enough their use of ‘Muslim’ was to the exclusion of their ‘grave worshipping’ ancestors or family members, which they considered to be misguided and confused. Most likely, however, the situation was actually tragically reversed, with modernized South Asians being extremely confused about their faith and the ‘ignorant’ visitors of graves seeing with a spiritual clarity.

Many South Asian parents had not bought into their own intellectual superiority, and hence many had not adopted the Wahabi ideal in order to critique the problems ‘back home’. These parents were quiet on the subjects of question (saints, graves, intercession, etc), and very few had the ability to respond back to the arguments presented by Wahabi philosophies from their children. Growing up their entire lives in that society, it was difficult for parents to forsake that which they had learned was de-facto Islam, an Islam which had run their lives and so many loved-ones lives could not easily be discarded… Saints, Milad, Naats, Qawaali, and all. Largely, they kept their distance from argument and supported the now adjusting faith of their children.

Interestingly enough, this comfortable nature of the different Islam between father and son, mother and daughter, in matters of practice of faith was a direct consequence of the open nature of the parents Islamic faith. It is this same South Asian pluralism which had created large periods of relative peace between Hindus and Muslims over a span of centuries, which now allowed children to look, dress, and act radically different from their parents, with hardly more than a word spoken.

This is not to say that parents did not fear the children would become ‘Christian’ in the West, indeed such fears existed and were a large part of growing up South Asian in the West. However, I would argue the fear towards Christianization was much more focused on the change in culture, and what that would mean for marriage, dress and social standings than what it meant to their soul. The pluralistic values of South Asia centered around a common culture, where often the weddings of the Muslim were not so dissimilar from that of the Hindu, in terms of dress and celebration. Exiting this culture was much more profound an issue than disagreements over details of faith.

After coming to terms with the reality of the rigid nature of a singular interpretation of Islam, the American convert experience, a struggle and challenge in its own right, seemed to need an understanding of how Islam survived with pluralistic flexibility in order to continue and progress in their faith. The first struggle for those espousing a return to the traditional understanding of Islam was to establish authenticity. This was done by focusing on the Madhabs, the schools of Islamic Law. Within these Madhabs lived the intellectual contribution of all Muslim legal scholars for centuries.

However, the reality was that the average South Asian Muslim had never heard of Madhabs in any Islamic sense. Since the overwhelming majority of their society was Hanafi, there was no need to even learn the names of other approaches in matter of form or externals. So, in fact, in American Masjids, it was those espousing “Madhabs” who ended up looking as if they were speaking of something new.

As a completely wayward path, the Wahabi agenda of puritanical groups looking to take over Islam in the West was rebuffed with this larger understanding of Islamic Law. The only escape for American converts from this type of Islam, was a broader understanding of the faith with multiple legal opinions. This has become to be known as “traditionalism”, espoused by famous converts and speakers such as Sh Hamza Yusuf, Imam Zaid Shakir, and Sh Nuh Keller.

However, this following of converts, with their own issues of reconciliation of culture cannot be followed by South Asians descendants who plan on keeping their own culture alive. It seems the South Asian child’s only two choices today are assimilation into three categories: the secular West, the Western Islamic discourse dominated by anti-traditionalists, or the Islamic discourse of Arabized traditionalists. As noted in my previous articles, it is clear that a traditional South Asian Islam has been ignored by the West. Revivalists of traditional sciences in the West have ignored the South Asian contribution for too long.

A focus on historical personalities and works of South Asian descent is a personal priority of mine. It is time the Milad, Ghazal, Naat, and Qawaali was understood and loved again, not simply analyzed through the lens of a protracted argument about good and bad “innovations”.

“That is so 90’s.” It’s time to move on.

10-18

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