Lessons from a Medina Graveyard

August 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Fahad Farruqui

slide_42595_328275_largeOne can learn many lessons at a graveyard. I once found myself helping carry the corpse of a stranger, an old woman, to its final abode. At the time, I was a 20-year-old on a family trip to the Holy City of Medina in Saudi Arabia.

Following the ish’a (night) prayers at the Prophet’s Mosque (Al-Masjid al-Nabawi) and the recitation of obligatory funeral prayer, I came across a middle-aged man searching for help to transport the coffin of the woman, who I later learned was his mother. She had passed away a few hours earlier and her son was eager to fulfill her final wish: to be buried immediately after death.
The son was the only family member present. He was anxious to hastily transport the steel coffin, containing the corpse of his mother wrapped in a white shroud, to the Garden of Heaven or, as it is called in Arabic, Janatu l-Baqi’, a graveyard adjacent to the Prophet’s (s) Mosque.

Since it was late at night, the mosque had emptied quickly and there weren’t many eager beavers to lend a hand. A few men on their way out of the mosque regrettably declined the man’s pleas for assistance, saying they had far travel before reaching home. I wanted to help, but I was unsure if I would be able to carry the coffin all the way to the grave situated a couple of hundred meters away.

After a handful of men gathered to move the coffin, four men including me lifted it in unison and rested each corner on the shoulder. As we proceeded toward the graveyard, the coffin was tilted toward my side since I was relatively shorter than the other three.

“She isn’t heavy,” I thought to myself in relief.

A man behind me yelled blessings to the dead as we commenced our walk towards the Medina graveyard. We all joined in enthusiastically, chanting blessings to the dead.

Our voices started to get dimmer as we ran out of breath. The farther we moved away from the mosque, the darker it became. In the sunlight, the sands of Medina graveyard vary in color from orange to a shade that borders on red, with volcanic rocks scattered throughout the grave marking the grave. But at night, it was pitch-black. Our pathway was lit only by the light illuminating from the towering minarets atop the mosque, where Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, rests along with Abu Bakr, the first caliph, and Umar ibn Al-Khattab, the second caliph, may God be pleased with both.

slide_42595_327677_largeAfter a few uneven steps, the buckle of one of my sandal’s broke, forcing me to push it aside as we continued forward. The ground was warm, even at this late hour. I could barely see where my feet were stepping in the wide graveyard around us. I was granted some relief when a man volunteered to help, seeking only reward from the Creator.

We walked aimlessly for a bit, trying our best not to trample over the other graves as we searched for the woman’s resting spot. Once we located it and rested the coffin beside the dugout, I took a peak at the grave. It was remarkably dark — the darkest shade of black that I have ever seen.

As I stood among these strangers with death before my eyes, and a six-foot deep grave that felt suffocating from above, the importance of my worries drifted away, and I began reflecting on the temporality of life.

It dawned on me how near we are all to death, our inevitable fate, although many of us think about death very rarely.

Quite out of the blue, I felt I was granted clues and answers to questions that had been filling my mind: Why am I here? And where will I go from here?

I had little to no sense of time. My startled parents went out looking for me when they saw all the doors of the Prophet’s Mosque closed from the window of our hotel room. I arrived back at the hotel more than an hour later than usual, yet the impression the experience left on me has been lasting. It was a moment of clarity, an hour that changed the very foundation of my existence.

“A moment of true reflection is worth more than ages of heedless worship,” Faraz Rabbani, a leading Islamic scholar, said recently on Twitter.

His words reminded me of that night. At certain points in our lives, we have experiences that shake us to the core and compel us to question our outlook on existence and, if we cultivate them properly, bring us nearer to the Almighty. Even many years later, in times when anger, distress, tribulation or temptation has attempted to sway me, my mind returns to that graveyard.

When you become mindful of death, you think and act differently. It becomes difficult to lash out in anger when we know how near death could be. A person conscious of death would think twice before defrauding and deceiving another human being.

slide_42595_328537_largeBy remembering that we will all perish and be buried in dirt, taking none of our possessions with us, it becomes undesirable to wrong or hurt someone intentionally. But one has to realize that death is inevitable.

My recollection of the funeral procession that night is vivid. I remember how time seized for me in the midst of that graveyard. I recall the haunting feeling of suffocation and discomfort that kept me awake that night.

Back in the hotel, as I rested my head on the plush pillow, in an arctic air-conditioned room, I thought of the rock-hard walls encircling that meager grave.

We need not reflect on death at all times to keep us on track. Paying attention to life — to the wondrous creations of the universe around us — can always draw us near to God and prompt us to be grateful. But also reflect on death, since it turns you away from the superficiality of the world and curbs your ego.

I would not say I am a man of immense knowledge. I haven’t spent an adequate amount of time fully uncovering the miracles of the Quran as deeply as I should. I have my ups and down. My faith, at times, dangles, and then I have to realign my thoughts. It happens more often than I am ready to confess here.

Yet I find remembering the inevitability of death from time to time is one way to stay grounded. During a course on Buddhist ethics I took a decade ago with Robert Thurman, the professor related a tale of a newlywed royal couple who went to a celebrated monk, Atisha, for marriage advice.

slide_42595_327710_largeInitially hesitating to offer any since he had never been married himself, the monk finally yielded, giving some of the soundest marital advice I have heard: “Eventually, husband and wife, each will die. So now while alive, you should strive to be kind to each other.”

Thoughts of death need not flood our minds with sorrow and negativity, as we should understand that death is a natural part of the journey of life.

If we work on making every prayer count as if it’s our last and set aside time from our busy schedules, including the social media that consumes a measurable chunk of our day, to unwind the thoughts and worries entangled in our minds, we may become better humans and will indeed have a greater chance of living with peace.

13-35

Fulfilling Our Destiny is Like Surfing the Waves

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

Every living thing has an ideal destiny, because God created us to grow, learn, enjoy life, and improve our intellect, so that we may understand Reality, just like He wants the flowers to bloom. God made every living being with a blueprint of its true nature within its DNA. Sometimes flowers wilt, sometimes people become depressed, but that is not their true nature. Some kind of deficit has occurred, like lack of rain prevents the flower from living up to its natural potential. Unlike flowers we have choices, and the moral responsibility for those choices. We also have human rights.

In Islam, a woman has the moral responsibility for the spiritual status of herself, and her children. On the Day of Judgment a man will however be asked about the level of his wife’s faith. A woman will not be held morally responsible to the same degree if her husband went astray. That is because man has a degree of power over his wife that she doesn’t have over him, by nature. A parent only has moral responsibility up to a point. When the child becomes of age, he is responsible for his own choices. Prophet Noah (as) had to go through the heartbreak of enduring a disobedient son and then, he had to live with the knowledge his son had drowned in the Flood. What a terrible burden! But Allah relieved him of that burden. 

He (God) said, “O Noah, in fact, he (your son) is not a part of your family. Indeed, he is (a man of) bad deeds. So do not ask Me something of which you have no knowledge. I exhort you not to be among the ignorant.” (Quran 11:46)

Allah said it is ignorance to love and consider as family a man of bad deeds. The most sacred bonds such as between a parent and a child can be destroyed by bad deeds. When we continue to pray for something in a relationship that is not possible, we are living in ignorance. Yet, at other times, when we should be doing something quite possible, but we did not make the effort, we are also living in ignorance. How do we know if a situation is salvageable? How do we know when to give up on a person or whether to try harder to reach them? As long as we are acting from ego, we will never know.

Even our Prophet (s), as an example for us, asked for protection against his own ego, even for the blink of an eye; although he is perfect and preserved from sin by God, he taught us to be careful of our own egos. Prophet David (as) used to follow his prayers with supplications begging forgiveness for the inadequacy of his previous prayers, in case there was any pride mixed in for having performed them.

Every struggle, whether a relationship problem, cancer, or a war, presents us with opportunities to learn and grow, and to purify our souls. There is a special dwelling place in Paradise for those who are able to praise God in every circumstance no matter what. We will always experience hardship and loss and fear. Our ego can get in the way and make us afraid to take risks or conversely, make us react emotionally and destructively. Real devils will interfere in our lives and zap our ability to understand what’s going on.

Everyone has something that they are destined to fulfill in this life. Sometimes we stop the process of our own growth and degrade ourselves; sometimes we allow someone else to degrade us – because we have been allowing our ego to cover up the Truth deep inside that God wants us to be happy and healthy. It’s a delicate balance we must maintain, and it has to move with every wave, like a surfer. But if we can maintain that balance within, we can then with a clear head make the best decision for what will help us blossom in our true lives.

The Prophet Muhammad (s) said the struggle will go on until the Day of Judgment, like the ocean waves. There will never be a time when we don’t have to face trouble and make decisions about how to deal with these challenges. Until we get our own egos under control, we will face the same trouble over and over and over, regardless of how many times we run away from our problems.

All human beings are in a state of total confusion until we accept Grace. Verily all men are in a state of loss! Except those who accept that sunshine and rain from the sky, and share this Truth with others. They are the ones who can bloom. They are the ones who have learned to collect Power from the universe, circulate it within, and emit Light. They are the glowing ones.

When you see someone who is glowing, you know they are not wasting their day nursing resentments, you know they are keeping their minds clear and clean. They probably have a regular spiritual practice, because glowing takes regular practice. It doesn’t just “happen” just like music doesn’t just “happen.” Unless a musician regularly exercises the tiny muscles in his fingers, he will not be able to play you a song, let alone put feeling into that song. We must constantly work on perfecting ourselves, but we will never be perfect. We can never give up trying to be the best we can be, because that is the whole point of our life’s journey.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer.

13-29

3 Muslim Clerics Barred from US Flights

May 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Agence France-Presse

WASHINGTON, USA – Three imams including a US-born Muslim bound for a conference on Islamophobia were kicked off US domestic flights out of security fears, clerics and an airline said Saturday.

Two imams boarded a flight from Memphis, Tennessee to Charlotte, North Carolina on Friday only to have it return to the terminal so they could be put through “additional screening,” said a spokesman for Atlantic South Airlines (ASA), the Delta Connection airline operating the flight.

“We take security and safety very seriously, and the event is currently under investigation,” said spokesman Jarek Beem, adding that the men were put on the next available flight.
ASA is investigating the incident, “and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused,” Beem said.

US-born imam Al-Amin Abdul-Latif of Long Island was barred from boarding an American Airlines flight from New York to Charlotte late Friday and told to return to LaGuardia airport for a morning flight Saturday, only to be refused boarding again, without explanation, his son said.

“This morning we get to the airline, and the ticket agent told my father that the airline does not want him to fly. Those were her exact words,” Abu Bakr Abdul-Latif told AFP.

“There was nothing he could do,” said the son, who traveled on to the Charlotte conference without his father.

Masudur Rahman, a permanent US resident from India and former Memphis imam who teaches Arabic at the University of Memphis, said he and another cleric, a US permanent resident from Egypt and dressed in a shoulder-to-ankle Islamic robe, were pulled off ASA flight 5452 and cleared through new security checks.

“But when we went to re-enter the plane, the Delta supervisor said ‘Sorry, the pilot is not allowing you to enter,’” Rahman told AFP.

Delta negotiated at length with the pilot, noted Rahman, who said he was told that “some passengers might be uncomfortable” with their presence on the plane.

“I think they were obviously upset to the extent that they were inconvenienced, but, you know, they understand what’s going on in the world and particularly in the heightened sensitivities after the death of Osama bin Laden,” Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations told CNN.

Bin Laden, the Al-Qaeda chief who orchestrated the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States was killed Monday by US commandos in a daring raid deep inside Pakistan.

Al-Qaeda acknowledged their leader’s death, and has vowed revenge on America for the killing.

The imams were heading to the North American Imams Federation conference entitled “Islamophobia: Diagnosis and Treatment.”

13-20

The Iranian Greens and the West: A Dangerous Liaison

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sasan Fayazmanesh

In the 1979 Revolution in Iran the liberal forces made a fatal mistake: they adopted the old dictum of the enemy of my enemy is my friend and allied themselves with just about every force that opposed the tyrannical rule of the shah. The result was helping to replace one form of despotism for another: monarchy for theocracy. A similar mistake seems to be made today. Many liberal elements are once again allying themselves with anyone who opposes the current regime in Iran, including the same Western countries that nourished the despotic rule of the shah in the first place.

For decades these countries, particularly the US and Israel, helped the shah to deprive Iranians of their most basic rights and freedoms. With the assistance of these countries, the demented despot silenced all opposition to his rule, built and expanded his notorious secret police, made his opponents disappear, and filled Irans dungeons, particularly the infamous Evin prison that is still in use, with political prisoners. He had them tortured, mutilated, and executed. The US, Israel and their allies, had no problem with these violations of basic human rights in Iran as long as the son of a bitch was their son of a bitch and made them a partner in the plunder of the wealth of the nation.

Afterward, these same countries gave us the dual containment policy that helped Saddam Hussein start one of the longest wars in the 20th century, the Iran-Iraq War. They closed their eyes to Saddams crimes and even assisted him in his criminal acts. With their help, the butcher of Baghdad killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of people by deploying chemical agents in the war, bombing civilians and laying cities to waste. The West had no problem with Saddam Hussein as long as he was their son of a bitch. But once the Iraq-Iran War ended and Saddam tried to become a free agent, the US, Israel and their allies gave us the first invasion of Iraq and the subsequent inhumane sanctions against the country, which resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Then they brought about the second invasion of Iraq, the shock and awe, indiscriminate bombing of the civilians, sadistic and horrendous treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the savagery in Fallujah, more death, destruction, and mayhem. Then Israel, that only democracy in the Middle East, and its Western allies, gave us the brutal war against the helpless Lebanese and the massacre in Gaza.

Has all this been forgotten? Have the liberal Iranian forces lost their memory? Are they suffering from historical amnesia? Indeed, the behavior of some of the supporters of the Iranian Greens leaves one with no choice but to conclude that they are either experiencing a memory loss or are amazingly ignorant. For example, according to The Washington Post, on November 2, 2009, Ataollah Mohajerani, who has been a spokesman in Europe for presidential candidate-turned-dissident Mehdi Karroubi, came to Washington to address the annual conference of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. True, according to the report, Mr. Mohajeranis talk, which included such things as a rehashing of U.S. involvement in the 1953 coup in Tehran, did not exactly please his audience. But why would a supporter of the Iranian Greens appear before the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) crowd in the first place? Doesnt he know what WINEP represents? Has he no idea that this institute is a think tank affiliate of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)? Is he not aware that AIPAC is the Israeli fifth column in the US, which, in spite of formulating US foreign policy in the Middle East, is caught every few years in the act of espionage? Is he ignorant of the fact that AIPAC-WINEP has been underwriting every sanction act against Iran since the early 1990s? Is he unaware that AIPAC-WINEP gave us Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and associates, the Bush era architects of the genocidal war in Iraq? Does he not know that AIPAC-WINEP has brought us Dennis Ross and associates, the architects of the Obama era policy of tough diplomacy, a policy that was intended to bring nothing but more sanctions against Iran and, possibly, a war? Is he not aware that AIPAC-WINEPs interest in Iran stops at the doorstep of Eretz Israel and has nothing to do with democracy or human rights in Iran? How forgetful or ignorant can a supporter of the cleric Karroubi be?

Many supporters of Mir Hussein Mossavi have also shown either memory lapses or complete ignorance. . . .

12-9

Jesus: The Perfect Sufi Master

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sadia Dhlvi

shahada Feb.15 : I grew up in an Irish convent boarding; regularly attending the school church and studying the Bible. Since then I have felt connected with Prophet Jesus and Virgin Mary. It is amazing how understanding another religion can bring one closer to one’s own faith, traditions. I love Jesus for He is Ruh Allah, the Spirit of God, and like Adam carries the Breath of Divinity.

I love Mary, the beloved friend of God who in Islam stands at the summit of the hierarchy of women.

Every faith depends upon the Divine word, which may manifest itself in a book or man. In Christianity the word is Christ, and the New Testament is an inspired history of the Word made Flesh, whereas Judaism and Islam are based on the word made Book.

Today, if the followers of Jesus, Moses and Mohammad are at odds, it is not because of the their teachings, but despite their unifying message of the Oneness of God. Islam, the last of the three Semitic monotheistic religions, incorporates all the prophets from the lineage of Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses) and Isa (Jesus). According to the Quran there has never been a time when God did not send messengers who did not speak the language of the people. “Nothing is said to thee that was not said to the apostles before thee”. (41:43) Interestingly, there exists more references to Mariam (Mary) in the Quran than in the New Testament.

Prophet Muhammad (s) said, “Both in this world and in the Hereafter, I am the nearest of all the people to Jesus, the son of Mary. The Prophets are brothers of the same father with different mothers, and their religion is one. I am the closest in relationship to Jesus, the son of Mary, because there was no prophet between him and me. Jesus will descend. If you see him, then know him. He is a man of a moderately ruddy complexion. He will be wearing two faintly yellow garments. His hair will seem to have drops of water upon it, even though it will not be wet”.

Sufis have forever expressed profound reverence for Jesus, regarding him a perfect Sufi Master and knower of Divine mysteries. Jesus said, “It is to those who are worthy of my mysteries that I tell my mysteries. I took my place in the midst of the world, and I appeared to them in flesh. I found all of them intoxicated; I found none of them thirsty. And my soul became afflicted for the son of men, because they are blind in their hearts and do not have sight; for empty they came into the world, and empty too they seek to leave the world. Whoever has come to understand the world has found only a corpse, and whoever has found a corpse is superior to the world. Whoever finds the world and becomes rich, let him renounce the world. Become passers-by.”

Jesus declared, “I am the Master, I am the way”. As the Spirit of God, Jesus is pure compassion, a Godly attribute that Sufis seek to manifest in their own spirits. Through the centuries, Jesus and Mary have played significant roles in Sufi thought and poetry.

Rumi writes:

The hermitage of Jesus
Is the Sufi’s table spread
Take heed, O sick one,
Never forsake this doorway.
Fariduddin Attar praises the Spirit of God:
When God shadowed grace on the breath of Jesus
The world was filled with passion.

Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of  Sufism: The Heart of Islam.

12-9

Nigerian Terror Suspect: This Apple Fell Too Far From the Tree

January 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

2009-12-27T180848Z_310678741_GM1E5CS060801_RTRMADP_3_SECURITY-AIRLINE-NIGERIA

Nigeria’s Information Minister Dora Akunyili speaks during a news conference in Lagos. Farouk Mutallab, originally from Nigeria, had travelled widely, returning to Nigeria just before the jet attack.

REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

USAfricaonline, Commentary, Chido Nwangwu, Posted: Dec 28, 2009

The most unlikely person has snatched Alhaji (Dr.) Umaru Mutallab’s relatively mild-mannered public persona from him: his own son, Farouk Abdul Mutallab.

Farouk is the alleged terror-executor who on Christmas Day reportedly fumbled his own plan to blow up Delta-Northwest Airlines flight 235, minutes before landing in Detroit, the economically troubled American motor city.

The events in Detroit merely played up, to a global canvas, the contrast of the two individuals.

The older Mutallab, a conservative Muslim, was born in 1939 in the north central state of Katsina (home of the current, ailing President Umaru Ya’Adua).

A USAfricaonline.com count found that Umaru Mutallab was chairman of more than 36 blue chip companies inside Nigeria and overseas.

But while the older Mutallab sought and gained multiple millions dollars in rewards for his core, long-standing interests and skills in business especially in financial services, the younger Mutallab, by his own admission, sought to be a foot soldier for Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida.

A highly respected conservative man whose friends cut across states, religion and gender, Mutallab is soft spoken and very intelligent and industrious.

Having reported and followed key aspects of Umaru Mutallab and Nigeria’s military and civilian elite, I know that the older Mutallab benefited from his deft positioning across an immense network of family, geo-ethnic and professional layers of interests.

Consequently, the man has had a near permanent presence on Nigeria’s economic landscape as a government official, banking investor, facilitator or shareholder – working the levers of power- all through civilian and military governments in Nigeria for more than 35 years.

Alhaji Mutallab is one of Nigeria’s most respected technocrats and administrators, having also served as a Federal Minister of Economic Development & Reconstruction. He is a Fellow of the Association of Chartered and Certified Accountants (FCCA), Institute of the International Bankers Association (FIBA, USA), the Institute of Bankers and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (FCA).

Mutallab was appointed director of First Bank on March 8, 1996 and became chairman of the Board on March 18, 1999. In mid December, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab – after his massively rewarding decade at the helm of the First Bank Plc – fully retired as Chairman. He was succeeded by Oba Otudeko, a billionaire chairman of the Honeywell Group of Companies and immediate past President of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).

Mutallab has been in strategic board positions of the banking sector for decades as CEO and/or Chairman of various financial institutions including United Bank for Africa (UBA).

“The man is amiable and always at the forefront of any economic revival committees and boards of government, the alleged link of his son to the alleged terrorism plot left many of his friends and associates devastated,” notes Obinwa Nnaji, USAfricaonline.com bureau chief in Lagos. “Other Nigerians still argue at their homes, various places and across USAfrica multimedia blogs that they still do not believe it to be a stock in trade of Nigerians to be found planting bombs in aircraft.”

The Alhaji, from some indications, has been concerned about his son’s radical Islam associates, including potentially violent views. He reportedly, but yet unconfirmed by government and independent sources, visited the U.S. embassy in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, to alert its security of the son’s growing liaison and engagement with al-Qaida-type characters, especially in the radicalized country of Yemen.

In a Dec. 12, 2001 exclusively commentary for USAfricaonline.com, I raised a red flag and forewarned in the critical insight which focused on al-Qaida, rag-tag Taliban and Nigeria’s security situation.

Farouk attended college to study engineering in London, and lived in a posh, upscale apartment paid for by his father.

But one of the areas where the older Mutallab’s skills and services did not yield much if any significant value for Nigerians was his tenure as chairman of the troubled and woeful former National Electric Power Authority (NEPA).

As a key member of the Nigerian ruling groups, he bagged the chairmanship of the Vision 2020 Business Support Group of Nigeria. He is a key shareholder and chairman of the very successful Spring Waters Nigeria (SWAN), and a host of other investments.

Evidently, even the luxury and resources amassed by the older Mutallab could not dissuade his 23-year-old son Farouk from being a jihadist and fighter for Islamic fundamentalism through the violent, toxic mechanisms of terrorism, as alleged from his actions on Christmas Day.

Chido Nwangwu is the Founder & Publisher of the first African-owned, U.S-based professional newspaper published on the Internet at USAfricaonline.com, The Black Business Journal, CLASSmagazine, PhotoWorks.TV, AchebeBooks.com, USAfrica.TV and several blogs. Nwangwu has been honored by the Washington, D. C.-based National Immigration Forum for utilizing multimedia to fight authoritarianism and foster freedom of expression.

12-1

Letter for Marwa

August 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

marwa sherbini wedding
Egyptian Marwa El-Sherbini and her husband.

The following touching letter was published in the August 2009 edition of the Muslim Link in honour of the late Marwa El Sherbiny:

On July 1st, 2009 my friend, Marwa El Sherbiny, was killed in a German courtroom. She was there to bear witness against a man who had harassed her in a Dresden park where she was playing with her infant son. This man had called her a terrorist because she wore the hijab, the Islamic headscarf. Marwa had chosen to defend her rights and her dignity by taking legal action. She won the libel case and was in court again to testify at the appeal. Before she had the chance to do so, the same man pulled out a knife and stabbed her to death. She was 32.

When I first heard the news, all I felt was shock and anger. Anger that such a dear person was gone at such a young age; anger that her young son no longer had a mother to hold him tight. Anger that this is what ignorant, senseless hatred has brought us to. I’m angry that careless politicians, spouting fearful rhetoric, created a climate where a mother could be murdered in front of her son, in a court of law, and our society responds with a deafening silence. I imagine I will continue to feel angry for a long time to come, but constantly piercing through that anger, and often overshadowing it, is the memory of a beautiful, kind face and a tender heart.

I met Marwa in 2000 on the first of many trips to her home city of Alexandria, Egypt. One of my strongest memories from that first visit to Egypt was seeing Marwa after she had just decided to start wearing the hijab. As a “westerner” and an outsider I was shocked by her transformation, but not for the reasons one might expect. I was stunned because she was absolutely beautiful. It was not that she wasn’t beautiful before, because she was, only it had become a different sort of beauty. She shined. She looked like an angel. And Marwa was an angel in every way: incredibly strong and extraordinarily gentle. One of the first times I was struck by the beauty of Islam was when I saw it reflected in her face. I will miss one of the most generous souls that I was fortunate enough to be touched by.

Marwa had the strength to stand up for the truth, to stand against discrimination and hatred. She is an example to all Muslim women, like myself, who have silently faced the kind of insults that are sadly becoming a more common reality. Her action was an action to protect us all. I hope and pray that we can follow her example so that her struggle, her loss, will not be in vain.

I will pray for her, I will pray for her little boy, I will pray for her husband, and brother, and mother, and father, and friends – and I will pray for a better world for all of us.

Julia Williams,
Ottawa

11-35

My Father: Lion of the Desert

June 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

A Talk with Mohamed Omar al Mukhtar, son of the famous Omar al-Mukhtar.

By Khaled Mahmoud, Asharq Al-Awsat

omar_mukhtar_13 Cairo–In this interview, Asharq Al-Awsat speaks to Mohamed Omar al Mukhtar, the son of Libyan resistance leader Omar al Mukhtar who fought against Italy’s occupation of Libya in the 1920s and 1930s, which eventually led to his execution.

Mohammed al Mukhtar, 87, who accompanied Libyan leader Colonel Muamaar Gaddafi to Italy, spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat by telephone briefly before resorting to a mediator, Jalidi Khatrish, the Media Advisor to the Libyan Embassy in Rome, due to health reasons. The interview was conducted under the supervision of Hafed Gaddour, Libya’s ambassador to Rome.

Q) How did you feel when you first landed in Italy and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was waiting for you?

A) I felt proud to be the son of a great Mujahid who was martyred after resisting the Italians. They admitted their crimes, in particular the crime of executing the Mujahid of all Mujahideen [Omar al Mukhtar].

Q) Has the matter of your father’s execution been laid to rest with Italy?

A) This has been a good step and God willing it will be successful and mark the beginning of good ties based on equality and mutual interests.

Q) What does your visit to Rome represent and how do you feel?

A) It feels good.

Q) How did you feel when Berlusconi hugged you?

A) It was good.

Q) Gaddafi has a picture of your father pinned to his chest. How did you feel about that?

A) We were honoured by that.

Q) What is your message to the Italian people?

A) Now that there has been reconciliation, we are friends.

Q) Do you believe that all issues have been settled with the Italians?

A) Yes of course. They are not how they were in 1911 under [Benito] Mussolini. This is a new generation and we look forward to improved ties between Libya and Italy.

Q) How has your family responded to this visit?

A) The whole family is delighted at the visit.

Q) What is your message to the Italian people?

A) We hope that this visit and my presence alongside our brother leader [Gaddafi] will mark the beginning of new relations between the two countries after a dark chapter of Italian colonization of our country ended.

Q) It was the first time that an Arab leader has pinned a picture of an Arab martyr killed by Westerners to his chest. What does this mean to him and to you especially as the son of that martyr?

A) It is a good sign and we are proud of it. The leader Muammar Gaddafi is faithful to the martyrs and the Mujahideen who resisted the Italian occupation under the leadership of my father Omar al Mukhtar, may his soul rest in peace.

Q) What is your message to the Libyan people?

A) I would tell them that Italy’s acknowledgment and apology is addressed to the Libyan people, and there is no doubt that this honours the entire Libyan nation and we can hold our heads high thanks to the revolution and to Colonel Gaddafi.

Q) How do you view Italian official and media attention that was paid to your visit to Rome?

A) I have been received well and this exceeds me to the entire Libyan nation, especially Colonel Gaddafi.

Q) It is as if Omar al Mukhtar’s soul is being felt in Italy.

A) Yes, no doubt, and this of course pleases us.

Q) Is there anything you’d like to say to our readers?

A) I would like to wish them success in their work in the best interest of the entire Arab and Islamic world.

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