Monem Salem of Peaceful Communications Addresses Important Financial Issues

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

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Rochester Hills-March 10–Religious people are forced to confront directly decisions about their financial practices. Where people without religion have the luxury of making financial and other decisions without resort to a regime of discipline other than whatever feels right to them, religious people and especially Muslims have a strong structure of discipline into which they must integrate their financial lives.

How much to give as sadaqa? Is it halal to save money? And what about contemporary financial issues like debt–let alone the highly charged subject of riba.

Mr. Salam spoke at length about these issues to the Saturday night monthly dinner at IAGD.

The monthly dinner began after maghrib with Qur`an recitation and some demonstrations by IAGD children including a brief Qur`an recitation and a mock debate on the issue of Valentine’s Day and whether it is acceptable for Muslims.

Salam explained that in the environment of an economy that is hemorrhaging jobs, with a government that is borrowing money hand over fist, where all people are confronted with serious concerns about their economic well being, it is appropriate to ask what financial practices on an individual level are healthy and Islamically correct.

He had several main points which he emphasized carefully.  First, he emphasized balance.  He quoted a saying of Sayyidina Ali (kw) who said “spend neither extravagantly nor miserly.” This middle way, Salam explained, is dependent on what your personal wealth is.  But a sign of extravagance is buying things to compete with one’s neighbors or friends.  And don’t forget sadaqa and charity, he emphasized, saying sadaqa earns a reward far beyond what a person gives.  Spend less than what you earn, Salam said.

Also, he gave clear and convincing evidence from ahadith that debt is a terrible burden that must be avoided, pointing out that the level of debt of an American person, for example with a mortgage, is orders of magnitude beyond the debt avoided by Companions.  And his arguments about the terrible burdens of debt were powerful without his even touching on the subject of interest or riba.

P3068745 He explained that the word for debt in Arabic has the same root as the words “submission” and “humiliation.”

Also, Mr. Salam explained again with convincing arguments that saving is necessary.  He emphasized examples of Companions including Sayyidina Abu Bakr as Siddiq (ra) who gave a large amount of money to free Sayyidina Bilal (ra) from slavery–Salam’s argument was that this example of generosity must have meant that Abu Bakr (ra) had been saving in order to have such a large sum of money available to him when he needed it.

He gave examples from Qur`an also, including from Surat Kahf, where Sayyidinal Khidr (as) and Sayyidina Musa (as) rebuilt a wall to protect the savings of a pious man for his inheritors–therefore this means the pious man had saved money and was not spending all of it for sadaqa.

Another example from Qur`an was Sayyidina Yusuf’s dream of seven fat years and seven lean years–the principle being to save from prosperous times for “rainy days.”

Salam emphasized saving a significant amount, whether enough to live on for one full year or enough to survive a significant personal tragedy or catastrophe.

Mr. Salam is Director and Vice President of Islamic Investing and Amana’s deputy portfolio manager.  He was raised in Texas and earned degrees from the University of Texas.  After working with other firms, he joined Saturna Capital in 2003 and manages many of Saturna’s Islamic private acccounts. 

Mr. Salam was the subject of a documentary about learning to pilot a plane as a Muslim subsequent to 9/11, “On a Wing and a Prayer,” a review of which movie was featured in this newspaper.

12-11

Muslim 500 – A Listing of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World

November 17, 2009 by · 12 Comments 

By Adil James, MMNS

mabda500cover-v2 A fascinating new book has just been issued by The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center (in Jordan) in concert with Georgetown’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.

The book lists the 500 most influential people in the Muslim world, breaking the people into several distinct categories, scholarly, political, administrative, lineage, preachers, women, youth, philanthropy, development, science and technology, arts and culture, media, and radicals.

Before this breakdown begins however, the absolute most influential 50 people are listed, starting with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.  The top 50 fit into 6 broad categories as follows:  12 are political leaders (kings, generals, presidents), 4 are spiritual leaders (Sufi shaykhs), 14 are national or international religious authorities, 3 are “preachers,” 6 are high-level scholars, 11 are leaders of movements or organizations.

The 500 appear to have been chosen largely in terms of their overt influence, however the top 50 have been chosen and perhaps listed in a “politically correct” order designed not to cause offense.  For example, the first person listed is the Sunni political leader of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah.  The second person listed is the head of the largest Shi’a power, Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei.  As these are not the two Muslim countries with the largest populations, and do not even represent the two countries with the most spiritual or religious relevance (Saudi Arabia yes, Iran no) therefore clearly the decision of spots one or two appears to have been motivated by a sense of political correctness.

In total 72 Americans are among the 500 most influential Muslims, a disproportionately strong showing, but only one among the top 50.  Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson of Zaytuna Institute is listed surprisingly at number 38.  The world leader of the Naqshbandi Haqqani Sufi order, however, Sheikh Nazim al Haqqani, with millions of followers worldwide, spiritual adviser to kings, presidents, doctors, lawyers, professors and others across the spectrum of profession, race, and ethnicity on seven continents, is listed at number 49.  While Sheikh Hamza Yusuf has successfully built the Zaytuna Institute, his influence is confined mostly to American academia, scholars and students.  Surprisingly, Khaled Mashaal, leader of Hamas, (at number 34) is listed before any American Muslim. 

It seems strange that Yusuf is the only American listed in the top 50. Especially when Rep. Keith Ellison (D-5-MN), Tariq Ramadan and Ingrid Mattson are listed among the “honorable mentions” in the book (“honorable mentions” were almost among the top 50 but not quite—they are still listed among the 500).  Ingrid Mattson alone is likely more influential than Hamza Yusuf Hanson, for instance.  Not to mention Rep. Keith Ellison.  Even the Nobel prize winner Mohammad Yunus is listed only among the honorable mentions.

Sheikh Hisham Kabbani in the USA is listed among the most influential scholars in the Muslim world, and his relative Mohammad Rashid Qabbani, the Grand Mufti of Lebanon and its leading Sunni scholar, is also among the most influential scholars.  The Shi’a marja Ayatullah Sayeed Mohammad Fadlallah is the other listed scholar for Lebanon. 

The 18 prominent American Muslims in the Scholars section of the book also include Yusuf Estes, Sulayman Nyang, Muzammil Siddiqui, Sherman Jackson, Zaid Shakir, and Nuh Keller.  Two Americans are listed as Political figures in North America.  Nine Americans are listed as Administrative leaders, including Siraj Wahhaj—surprising to list him as an administrative leader rather than a preacher.  One Canadian is listed under the Lineage section, namely Jamal Badawi, but no Americans.  Under the Women heading appear six very recognizable names, perhaps most recognizable among them Ingrid Mattson, the controversial Amina Wadud, and the extremely influential Dalia Mogahed (who wrote the perhaps watershed work Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think.)  Two Americans are listed in the Youth category.  Under the Philanthropy category is listed one person, Dr. Tariq Cheema, co-founder of the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists.  13 Americans are listed under Development, including strangely the boxer Mohammad Ali.  Four Americans are listed under Science and Technology, perhaps most recognizably Dr. Mehmed Oz, who frequently appears on morning television to help explain medical situations to people, and who shows an interest in the overlap between traditional medicine and spirituality.  Seven Americans are listed under Arts and Culture, including the notable actors Mos Def and Dave Chappelle, also the calligrapher Mohammad Zakaria.  Nine Americans are listed in the Media section, including Fareed Zakaria and the filmmaker Michael Wolfe.

The book’s appendices comprehensively list populations of Muslims in nations worldwide, and its introduction gives a snapshot view of different ideological movements within the Muslim world, breaking down clearly distinctions between traditional Islam and recent radical innovations.

People who are themselves prominent scholars contributed to or edited the book, including of course Georgetown University’s Professor John Esposito and Professor Ibrahim Kalin.  Ed Marques and Usra Ghazi also edited and prepared the book.  The book lists as consultants Dr. Hamza Abed al Karim Hammad, and Siti Sarah Muwahidah, with thanks to other contributors.

The entire book is available online (here:  http://www.rissc.jo/muslim500v-1L.pdf) and we hope that it will be available for sale soon inside the United States.  Currently it is not available.

To encourage the printing and release of the book in the United States you can contact Georgetown’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at cmcu@georgetown.edu, or by phone at 202-687-8375.

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ISPU Banquet Grosses $250,000

November 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Neda Farooqi, MMNS

ISPU annual dinner accentuates issues facing American Muslims; raises $250,000.

“It is not the building that makes us big, it is us, you and I, that make us big,” said Imam Hassan al-Qazwini, referring to the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, annual fundraising dinner in the banquet hall of the largest mosque in North America on October 24, 2009. “May Allah bless you all.”

The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) is a nonprofit think tank organization, originated in Michigan that researches and evaluates US and foreign policy.

“ISPU’s mission is to focus on education, research, and analysis with an emphasis on issues effecting the Muslim community,” said Dr. Nauman Imami, Director of the Glaucoma Service at the Henry Ford Health System and member of ISPU Board of Directors.

Imami drew an analogy between Google and ISPU. “Google does one thing and it does it very well. It answers any questions posed to it.” According to searchenginejournal.com, Google ranks as the number one search site in the United States.

Imami explained that a public policy is created when there is a defined problem, a perceived solution, and political alignment.

Imami posed the question: “How are Muslims in America portrayed?” ISPU’s research has impacted many media products, such as the Newsweek cover story titled, “Islam In America,” published on July 30, 2007. Other networks such as CNN, BBC, and The Economist compile studies and data from ISPU. Media outlets such as Christian Science Monitor and the Associated Press have referenced several ISPU reports.

“ISPU provides solutions based on evidence and data for American Muslims,” said Imami.

“ISPU focuses on topics that are important to the community. Your concerns, your families, and domestic & foreign policy,” said Farid Senzai, assistant professor in the political science department at Santa Clara University and Director of Research at ISPU.

ISPU released several policy briefs on foreign topics ranging from the Arab/Israeli conflict to the predicaments taking place in Pakistan.  ISPU also examines domestic issues such as divorce in the American Muslim community, Muslim youth and ratification, and health clinics in the US.

ISPU has recently published a brief, “Death by Culture,” that centers on domestic abuse. This publication exhibits violence that circulated around the Rihanna/Chris Brown case and Bridges TV case, whose founder decapitated his wife in their television studio.

Senzai informed the audience that ISPU policy briefs have a high impact on US & foreign relations. “Four distinctive ISPU reports on Pakistan translated into very direct impact in Washington,” said Senzai. ISPU has also worked on topics of US & Iran relations, hosting a conference that invited scholars from Iran delegations and Egypt Sate Department Delegations. He was also invited to go to Egypt after the release of ISPU’s publications on US and foreign policy. 

A massive, two-year study on Muslim divorce is yet to be released, soon available to the public. 

Apart from fundraising, ISPU recognizes scholars and philanthropists annually for their research and significant impact. The 2009 ISPU Scholar Award was presented to Dr. Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan. “I shouldn’t be getting an award for speaking the truth,” said Cole, upon receiving the award. Dr. Anjum Shariff, a radiologist in St. Louis, was the recipient of the Distinguished Award for Philanthropy. His work entails helping refugee children attending struggling public schools and tutors high school students. Anjum Shariff has also formulated a program for students to shadow physicians at his workplace.

Soon after dinner and the award ceremony, keynote speaker, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf was invited on stage.

“It is nice to see chandeliers in the masjid, MashAllah, instead of lights flickering,” said Hamza Yusuf. Hamza Yusuf Hanson is an Islamic scholar who teaches at the Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California.

Yusuf reminded the crowd that Islam is not a monolith. “There is only one Islam,” he said. “But, there are multiple versions. Islam has many adjectives.”

The religion of Islam consists of different types of Muslims ranging from classical, traditional, Salafi, Sufi, Hanafi, Malaki and many more eclectic backgrounds. “The first and strongest strengths of Islam is Unity among diversity,” said Yusuf. “When you try to box people in narrow definitions, you are not acknowledging the depth of human beings.”

Yusuf also focuses on the difficulties that loom amongst Muslim Americans. “We are not recognizing that unity is not uniformity. That is the real problem of our community.”

Yusuf also spoke about western Muslim family and financial life.

“American Muslims have high levels of educations, with the average Muslim bringing in $70,000 [annually.]”

The Pew Research Center managed more than 55,000 interviews that were conducted in English, Arabic, Farsi, and Urdu. This information allowed the Pew to obtain a national sample of 1,050 Muslims, which assessed Muslim backgrounds, educational levels, and views on the western world. “We have potential to reinvigorate,” said Yusuf.

“What is driving us as a community? Where are we going?” Yusuf informs the crowd that the community has a lack of professionalism and strategy. “This is the purpose of think tanks like ISPU- to provide strategy and professionalism.”

Lastly, Yusuf directs the audience to avoid getting constricted in plots and conspiracies. Muslims know more about the conspiracies of September 11 than they do about the life of the Prophet Muhammad (s). “The Prophet never complained or played the victim card. The question is what are you doing, not what are they doing.”

Yusuf advises the 750 attendees to stick to the truth. “Truth is such an extraordinary rare,” he said. In addition, he recommends that American Muslims should not be judgmental and need to take advantage of the opportunities placed for them. “We have our own nutcases. We don’t like to be judged, so don’t judge others.”

“I don’t care what the enemy did to us, cause we wont be asked about that. What we will be asked about is how we responded,” concluded Yusuf.

Among local residents, dignitaries, such as Charlene Elder, the first Arab-American female judge on Michigan’s Third Circuit Court and Dearborn Heights Mayor Dan Paletko were in attendance.

The guests were given the opportunity to meet the speakers and take part in the book signing with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Dr. Juan Cole, and Dr. Farid Senzai.
The event raised $250,000, reaching ISPU’s goal Saturday night. ISPU tackles social challenges with the support of donations. To learn more about ISPU and its upcoming events, please visit www.ispu.org.

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Ramadan 1430, New Moon

August 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

new moon--not the Ramadan moon

The new moon for Ramadan 1430 comes in, according to www.nevis.columbia.edu, on Thursday August 20th, at 5:02 AM EST.  Therefore the Ramadan moon has already been born and whether one begins fasting depends on what method of determining the beginning of Ramadan one accepts, or which mosque or school of thought one follows, or for Shi’a it depends on which marja they follow.

By FCNA/ ISNA calculations, this new moon is impossible to spot in Mecca after sunset on Thursday, therefore although the new moon is in it is deemed by the reasoning of the Fiqh Council to bring in Ramadan the following evening.  Therefore FCNA will begin fasting on Saturday, tarawih prayers on Friday.  Many American mosques follow the influential ISNA / FCNA calculations. 

Other mosques follow ICNA, which has a different means of calculation.  Hamza Yusuf and Zaytuna insist on local physical sightings of the moon.  Many American mosques follow specific countries, without adhering to what other local mosques are doing. 

Saudi Arabia will fast Saturday, tarawih prayers beginning Friday. 

In the coming days insha`Allah we will report on when different communities began their fasting.

11-35

Qaradawi Fiqh on Jihad

August 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

qaradawi Yusuf al-Qaradawi, probably the single most influential living Sunni Islamist figure, has just written a major book entitled Fiqh al-Jihad (The Jurisprudence of Jihad) which decisively repudiates al Qaeda’s conception of jihad as a “mad declaration of war upon the world.” At the same time, he strongly rejects what he calls efforts to remove jihad completely from Islam, and strongly reaffirms the duty of jihad in resisting the occupation of Muslim lands, specifically mentioning Israel as the arena of legitimate resistance.  Qaradawi’s intervention has thus far received no attention at all in the English-language media. It should, because of his vast influence and his long track record as an accurate barometer of mainstream Arab views.

His book, described by the Egyptian newspaper al-Masry al-Youm last week in a seven part series, is far more important than the much-discussed “recantations” and “revisions” of former jihadist intellectuals such as Dr. Fadl (Sayid Imam) and the leaders of the Gama’a Islamiya. The internal revisions by ex-jihadists (which Qaradawi praises) may influence that tiny group of extremists, and demonstrate  cracks in their intellectual foundations. But for the most part, the mass Arab public has never heard of and doesn’t care about them. And unlike the Gamaa leaders or Dr. Fadl, Qaradawi did not produce his revisions from an Egyptian prison cell (hence Ayman Zawahiri’s cutting rejoinder to Dr. Fadl, that Egyptian prisons hadn’t had fax machines back in his day). Qaradawi is different. Qaradawi, an intensely controversial figure in the West, appears on a weekly al-Jazeera program and is probably the single most influential Sunni Islamist figure in the Arab world. The Egyptian-born Qaradawi is closely associated with the Muslim Brotherhood (he reportedly turned down an invitation to become its Supreme Guide because he felt he had more influence from his base in Doha). He is a populist whose views generally reflect widespread attitudes in the region — he strongly endorses democracy, for instance, while also supporting Hamas attacks against Israelis. Whether he leads or follows popular opinion is a difficult and fascinating question — but either way, he is quite a useful barometer.

His criticism of al Qaeda is not new — he condemned 9/11 and has engaged in a number of public polemics with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and with the leaders of al Qaeda. But the timing of this book merits attention.   His views generally closely mirror trends within wider mass public opinion will reach a far wider swathe of the Arab mainstream and will likely have far greater impact than did the internal revisions which received such attention in the West. His intervention strengthens the impression that al Qaeda’s extreme form of salafi-jihadism is on the wane in the Arab world, but political Islam and the spirit of muqawama (resistance) remains strong.

Qaradawi’s text deserves lengthy discussion, but a brief summary here will have to suffice. Fiqh al-Jihad stakes out the centrist (wasatiyya) ground where Qaradawi has always comfortably resided (he has authored dozens of books about wasatiyya concept). He rejects two trends: those who seek to eliminate jihad completely from the Muslim world, stripping it of its power and its ability to resist (which is how he sees the project of much of so-called moderate Islam or secularists); and those who apply it indiscriminately in a mad campaign of killing of all with whom they disagree (like al-Qaeda). Straw men, yes. But very effectively allowing Qaradawi to distinguish between al Qaeda’s excesses and the legitimacy of resistance to occupation and to Israel.

Qaradawi also offers an intriguing broadening of the concept of jihad, away from violence to the realm of ideas, media, and communication — which he calls the “jihad of the age.” The weapons of this jihad should be TV, the internet, email and the like rather than guns. Persuading Muslims of the message of Islam and the importance of this jihad in the path of God should be the first priority, he argues: “the jihad of the age, a great jihad, and a long jihad.”  He also goes into great detail about the different forms of jihad, the need for pragmatism, and the diverse nature of possible relations between Muslims and non-Muslims.

There is much more to Qaradawi’s text worth discussing, including his views on international law (he deploys Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib to depressing effect), his form of argumentation, his categories of jihad, his conceptions of Muslim relations with non-Muslims, and much more.  Parts of it are deeply problematic, others are surprisingly forthcoming. But for now, I mainly want to signal the appearance of this important text, which deserves close attention from all those interested in such matters.

11-34

At Peace at Last

July 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Hamza Yusuf

2009-06-29T055913Z_01_LOA191_RTRMDNP_3_MUSIC-BET
 

As a little boy, Michael Jackson had an extraordinary charisma — as well as an absolute innocence — that was disarmingly charming. It captivated millions of Americans and eventually people around the world.

As the years went by, his career took strange turns and he slowly turned white, transforming his face eerily into a pale and ghastly masque, perhaps to conceal the pain of alienation from his own self and family. He was also rumored to have unsavory predilections that would never have been suggested if one used the rigorous criteria of Islam before hurling an accusation. Despite the rumors, he appeared to have had a genuine concern for children, wanting to provide them with a world that was denied to him as a child due to the abuses he claimed to have suffered.

I was very happy for him last year when he reportedly became a Muslim. He had apparently followed the footsteps of his dignified and intelligent brother, Jermaine, who converted to Islam 20 years ago and found peace. It seemed befitting that Michael sought refuge from a society that thrives on putting people on pedestals and then knocking them down. He was accused of many terrible things, but was guilty of perhaps being far too sensitive for an extremely cruel world. Such is the fate of many artistic people in our culture of nihilistic art, where the dominant outlet for their talents is in singing hollow pop songs or dancing half-naked in front of ogling onlookers who often leave them as quickly as they clung to them for the next latest sensation.

In the manner of Elvis or the Beatles, Michael is unwittingly both a cause and a symptom of America’s national obsession with celebrity, currently on display in the American Idol mania. Celebrity trumps catastrophe every time. Far too few of us make any attempt to understand why jobs are drying up, why mortgages are collapsing, why we spend half-a-trillion dollars to service the interest on the national debt, why our government’s administration, despite being elected on an anti-war platform, is still committed to two unnecessary and unjust wars waged by the earlier administration, wars that continue to involve civilians casualties on an almost daily basis. Instead, we drown in trivia, especially trivia related to celebrity. And the response to Michael’s death is part of the trivial pursuits of American popular culture. The real news about death in America is that twenty Iraq and Afghan war veterans are committing suicide every day. But that does not make the front page nor is it discussed as seriously as the King of Pop’s cardiac arrest.

Nevertheless, Michael’s very public death notice is a powerful reminder that no matter how famous or talented or wealthy one is, death comes knocking, sometimes sooner than later. Michael has now entered a world of extraordinary perception, a world that makes his “Thriller” video seem mundane. It is a world of angels and demons, and questions in the grave, a world where fame is based upon piety and charity. Given Michael’s reported conversion to Islam last year, Muslims count him as one of our own, and we pray that he can finally find the peace he never found in this world and that he is in a place, God willing, of mercy, forgiveness, and solace.

11-28

Clashes in Baidoa Province, Somalia

May 4, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Clashes in Baidoa Province,
of Somalia
By Ali Abdi Hussein, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
Baidoa, Somalia— At least one person has beeen killed seven people has been wounded in clashes between militias loyal to Somali president Abdulahi Yusuf Ahmed and local militias in Baidoa, capital town of Baidoa on Tuesday. The cause of the clashes was continuing rivalry between the rival militias in Baidoa suburb last month.
Yusuf’s militia with Toyota pick up vehicle exchanged gunfire with local militias in central Baidoa town injuring seven people.
Two of the wounded were said to belong militias of president Abdulahi Yusuf, while one was of local militias.
“It was a short-term battle but it has an impact on the city activities, the people remained indoors fearing the stray bullets from the warring sides,” an eyewitness said.
“The president himself is creating an insecurity atmosphere because he deployed thousands of Puntland militias in the region,” one of Baidoa residents reported to the press, asking not to be identified.
One of Yusuf’s injured militia members was in serious condition after his bladder hit by a bullet.
Baido town, which is a temporary capital for the transitional federal government, has been relatively quiet for the past few days, but now it is becoming apparent that the security is getting out of control after the latest attack in the town. -