Haiti Fundraiser

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMnS

Despite Islamophobia rampant throughout the world and Muslims everywhere under attack, when disaster strikes as it has in Haiti, Muslims react instantly with charity and a deep sense of humanity.

If the foregoing seems to describe a paradox, to Muslims, helping others in distress regardless of religion, is a Koranic mandate. This past weekend Islamic Relief held a successful fundraiser in Anaheim, Ca to raise funds for disaster relief in earthquake ravaged Haiti. The speakers described the Islamic duty to support this cause citing Koranic chapters and centuries of precedent.

Before a capacity crowd the evening, which began with a recital from the Koran, featured such noted Muslim figures as Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, Dr. Maher Hathout and Imam Zaid Shakir. 

A video showing the devastation in Haiti played during the length of the evening.

Dr. Siddiqi said that natural disasters are trials, both for those who are stricken and those who are safe. For the former, it is a test of faith; for the latter, it is a test of charity.

“We are all part of the human family”, Dr. Siddiqi told his audience.

When Dr. Maher Hathout took to the podium he asked his audience to imagine what life must be like for people whose very existence changed in a matter of seconds.

“We do what we do because we are followers of the Koran and of Mohammed (pbuh).”

Imam Zaid Shakir of the Zaytuna Institute spoke of the parallel between the tragedy of Haiti and the tragedy of Gaza. In the former there is mobilization through out the world to come to the aid of the Haitians. For Gaza, one year after the devastating attack by Israel, rebuilding has not begun and aid convoys are turned away. Despite this the people of Gaza have raised money for the suffering people in Haiti.

Islamic Relief leader Anwar Khan presided over fundraising and spoke of his experiences in Haiti. He had just returned from a two day visit, and his testimony was particularly compelling because he spoke as an eye witness.

“The smell of death was everywhere”, he said.

The 7.0-magnitude earthquake left an estimated 1.5 million people homeless, and initially 200,000 were killed. Many survivors have died since due to malnutrition and dehydration and injuries received during the quake. People are sleeping in the streets with nothing under them but bricks. With a shaky infrastructure to begin with, there is very little that the earthquake did not damage or destroy. Homes, schools, places of worship, government buildings – all suffered damage and those that are not level are unsafe.

Islamic Relief set up temporary shelters in tented areas for 120 families. They worked with and befriended the Haitians whom they helped. This contrasts with many other relief efforts in which the volunteers felt the need for body guards and also the need to construct barbed wire fences between themselves and the Haitians. The humane ambiance of Islamic Relief’s work in addition to the direct aid is an outgrowth of religious faith.

“I never realized how devastated that poor country was” said one woman after hearing Brother Khan speak.

The evening was presented by Islamic Relief in coordination with the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. Sponsors were CAIR-LA, MPAC, MAS, MSA-West and COPAA.

Islamic Relief is a charitable organization which has operated for a quarter of a century to alleviate poverty, illiteracy and suffering and to bring aid and comfort to victims of natural and man made disasters. They are often the first responders to any emergency, and their work covers every part of the globe. They operate without reference to nationality, creed and color. They partner with other aid groups both local and international.

The list of their activities is encyclopedic. Here are a few: an orphan support program; water and sanitation development; education, and income generation. They have been in Pakistan in the aftermath of devastating earthquakes there; in Gaza when Israeli bombs were dropping; in Ethiopia during a famine, and in our Gulf States in the aftermath of Katrina.

To find out more about Islamic Relief and/or to contribute, please access them at: www.islamicreliefusa.org.

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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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The Tender Plants Of Our Society

August 20, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Sara Yousuf

483px-Handicap.svg July fourth, 2009. A Saturday at ISNA in Washington D.C. on an Independence Day morn. But not just any Saturday at the ISNA bazaar in Washington D.C., where my family and I manning a booth for HelpHandicap Foundation, a non-profit organization enabling people with disabilities in India. It was a Saturday that would mean so much to my family and I, and, I think, also to various Muslims with disabilities who would attend it and go home with a spark of hope amongst them.

It was the day the first panel discussion on disability would take place in ISNA history. There would be four speakers, one of whom would be my father, Mr. Mohammed Yousuf. Also featured would be, a psychiatric doctor, Mona Amer, who had done research on the inclusion of Muslims with disabilities, the general topic of the panel, the distinguished Imam Zaid Shakir, and Mr. Mobin Tawakkul, who had written with my father a chapter in a book about the lives of people with disabilities, along with Ms. Isra Bhatty, who would be serve as the moderator in the discussion.

My brothers, my mother, and I were really excited about the discussion. After handing out brochures all of Friday, and having trouble getting to sleep out of over-excitement, we were up in a flash Saturday morning. My mother and father had given me camera-duty. At first I thought, “Oh, what a snap this will be, only five-ten minutes here and there.” Later did my mother tell me that I had to videotape the entire discussion, which would last for two-hours plus, when I noticed that maybe my task would not be such a delicious piece of cake.

Well, my five- and nine-year-old brothers and I took our seats, three rows down from the stage. When asked why, I merely told the older of my brothers that though my hand may ache, I would not like to crane my neck. I turned on the camera before the panel started; in fact, I started it when I spotted my father talking to one of the speakers. Enjoying myself blissfully, I did not notice the time left on the camera before the memory was full.

The discussion started—finally! I thought. Of course, I couldn’t wait to hear my father speak, as I am sure neither could my brothers nor my mother. The first speaker was Dr. Mona Amer, and I really liked the way she started off. She asked the audience why most of them had come to the discussion: because they, someone they know, or someone in their family has a disability, knew a speaker in the discussion, were interested in the topic, or had just heard about the discussion; or because they were interested in the topic or had heard about the discussion.

Though I am not an adult, I wanted to be a part of the panel, too, so I raised my hands for the first two reasons. As I had predicted (I’ve always understood human feelings, and this I could feel in the crowd), most hands were in the air for the first reason: because they themselves had a disability or knew someone with a disability. From that moment, I was hooked in the discussion as I watched it through the screen of the camera.

Halfway through the doctor’s speech, my hand ached to be in another position. By this time I was so into the panel that I was only thinking, seeing, hearing the panel, and nothing else. Well, I did also notice my throbbing hand. For a second I thought, “Well, when you take pictures, you can turn the camera sideways and the pictures come out vertical.” Flipping the camera, I said to myself, “By the way, the video looks better vertical.” So I kept on switching the camera every five minutes or so.

Imam Zaid Shakir started his speech then, and he, along with the doctor before him, really started emphasizing and I really started to think, not just listen. Why was I here? Was I a part of this? How could I, an ordinary preteen from the mid-north of America, work towards the “inclusion of disability in North America”, when I was only a child? What could I do to change my corner of the universe? Now wait a minute……change the universe? Ha! That was long-term! How would I even begin to change the lives of those with disabilities? Moreover, what could I do? Could I, a single kid, amend the way the common society overlooks these people with disabilities???

I, an eleven-year-old, sat there amongst the couple hundred of people in Conference Room D in the Mount Vernon Place Convention Center, in Washington D.C., thinking.

Next, a video was to be played about the issue of including people with disabilities. I shut off the camera while watching, and I can tell you that though my brain was working, my face was totally frozen, struck by awe. In the movie, a part was entitled to the problems in the masjids in their local areas. One brother stated that yes; his masjid’s bathroom was made into an accessible bathroom for wheelchair use, but had been turned into a storage area for janitor supplies and boxes! To myself, I think: why is this happening, happening that the masjid’s handicap features are being changed?

It was like the video sent me flying. Thinking I began about everything in the video. How could I help? Donations? Articles? Words? Actions? HOW?!?! Answers I needed, not questions.

I turned the camera back on for my father’s speech. The projector screen displayed the image of cupped hands holding rich brown soil in which was growing a s mall, two-leafed, lime-green plant, about the size of your average thumb.

My father explains that those with a disability in our community are like this plant. Tender, small, totally dependant. It needs sunlight, water, and air.

Now I completely understand what my father means. Those hidden in our communities need sunlight—love and attention, water—knowledge to nourish them, and air—friends, people around them.

Who can give them these three necessities of basic living? Who? Who is responsible for this amongst us?  

Us.

We.

We are.

We are the ones responsible. We can change the way Muslims with disabilities are excluded in their local masjid and our societies. We can try to include them in every way possible. You’re the one who can change your corner of the universe. You, yes, you!

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Florida Stories Vol 8 Iss 18

April 30, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Local Muslims Gather for Annual Celebrations of Prophet’s birth and life

At locations throughout South Florida this April, traditional Milad-un-Nabi programs were held to celebrate the life and times of the Prophet Muhammad. The events coincided with the Prophet’s birthday on the 12th day of Rabbi-ul-Awwal, third month on the lunar Muslim calendar, which this year fell on April 12.

In Muslim countries, the event is marked by numerous festivities, including devotional song, poetry reading, religious devotion, lectures and get-togethers and feature large scale TV and media coverage. In the states, though overseas TV coverage is now present thanks to satellite TV channels, broadcasting Milad-un-Nabi coverage from back home, events here tend to be more subdued, owing in part to the views of some communities and community members that such celebrations are unlawful innovations, religiously speaking.

Despite the misgivings by some, though, many—perhaps the majority—continue the colorful and joyous observances of what all in the community agree was one of the pinnacle moments in human history, the prophet’s birth.

One such program was held at the Miami Gardens Masjid in Miami-Dade County on Saturday evening, April 8, which annually marks the occasion with either lectures, traditional Urdu-poetry in praise of the prophet, or dinners.

Open to men and women, the program featured a lecture by visiting speaker Faisal Abdur Razzaq of Toronto, Canada. Hundreds of families and community members were in attendance for the annual event which included dinner after the sunset prayer of Salat-ul-Maghrib.

Abdur Razzaq received his Islamic studies at the Umm-Al-Qurra University in Makkah, Saudi Arabia and at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah from 1977 to 1986. He is currently the President of the Islamic Forum of Canada, and the Vice-President of the Islamic Council of Imams of Canada. He served as Imam Khateeb of several mosques and Islamic Centers there including the Islamic society of Peel, the Islamic Centre of Brampton, and the Toronto and Region Islamic Center (TARIC).

Razzaq also conducted a workshop for Muslim Youth on Sunday April 9th at Miami Gardens entitled “Sacred Knowledge Training Program concentrating on Fiqh and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad.”

The mosque has been hosting a number of guest lecturers since the departure of its regular imam Abdul-Hamid Samra in March.

Zaid Shakir Speaks in South Florida

Tall and soft-spoken with a slow, deep, and rhythmic speaking style, Zaid Shakir is an African American Muslim community leader perfectly at ease amongst the immigrant origin segments of the community. Over the years, on his journey from an urban northern California youth to Muslim convert and toward the highest rung of Muslim community speaker and leader, Shakir has continually earned respect though humility, hard work and community efforts around the country.

But that doesn’t mean he can’t get loud and passionate when he needs to. Now at the head of one of the most well-known Muslim educational groups in the country—the Zaytuna Institute in his native northern Cali—this past month, Shakir visited South Florida for a number of events.

On Thursday, April 6th at 7 pm Shakir spoke on the subject of “Muslims in America: Challenges and Opportunities,” at the University of Miami’s Learning Center building, co-sponsored by the school’s Department of Religious Studies and the Islamic Society at UM.

Then on Friday, April 7, the Madinah Foundation presented ‘A Night of Reflection; The Ethical Standard of the Prophet Muhammad; Controlling Anger, Promoting Understanding Through Wisdom,’ a lecture by Shakir. The free event was that time held at the Darul Uloom Institute in Pembroke Pines.

Both events were well-attended with positive reaction from attendees.

At UM, Religion 101 students received extra credit for attending the Shakir lecture thanks to longtime ISUM supporter and head of the school’s Religious studies department, Dr. Stephen Sapp.

ISUM president Sarah Uddin greeted the Shakir visit with excitement and praised the turnout.

“We had an awesome turnout! I’m really happy with the program last night. Imam Zaid’s speech was super engaging. He was able to reach so many non-Muslim students and ISUM alumni, in addition to the rest of the ISUM gang, who all came out,” she said.

A mainstay at such prominent national Musilm community events as the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America—where he often speaks at the main stage in front of tens of thousands—Shakir was born in Berkeley, California. He accepted Islam in 1977 while serving in the United States Air Force and obtained a BA with honors in International Relations at the American University in Washington D.C. and an MA in Political Science from Rutgers University.

Spending time overseas in Egypt, Syria, and Morocco, Shakir studied Arabic as well as the traditional Islamic sciences including Islamic law, Quran, and Islamic spirituality. Upon returning, he co-founded Masjid al-Islam in Connecticut and taught Political Science at the Southern Connecticut State University. He has translated several books from Arabic into English including “The Heirs of the Prophet.”

Since 2003, he has acted as a professor and scholar-in-residence at the Zaytuna Institute & Academy, alongside fellow well-known Muslim community speaker, Hamza Yusuf Hanson, also from Northern California.

The Madinah Foundation, which was largely responsible for Shakir’s visit, is the local Zaytuna Affiliate in South Florida, staffed by former community youth and college activists who grew up attending Islamic studies programs around the country and listening to speakers such as Shakir and Hanson as role-models, and also organizes annual Islamic study retreats in Zaytuna’s “Deen Intensive Style”—part nature retreat/camp, part traditional Islamic educational experience trying to recreate pre-Colonial modes of Islamic education—throughout the state.

CAIR-FLORIDA: ‘Urge Legislators to Oppose Bill’
‘BILL WOULD CUT FUNDING FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS’

CAIR-FL, along with groups such as Florida Immigration Advocacy Center (FIAC) and the Muslim Student Association (MSA) at the University of Southern Florida in Tampa called for the withdrawal of proposed legislation that would prohibit state funds from being used to provide financial aid to university and college students on visas. The statement came on April 24.
Florida House Bill 205 and Senate Bill 458 target students that hold visas and receive financial support from Florida to attend state schools. A similar bill 2003 HB 31, introduced by Rep. Dick Kravitz, R-Jacksonville three years ago targeting some Muslim countries was defeated during the senate hearing.
FAU Students hold Annual ‘Scholar’s Night’
The Muslim Student Organization at Florida Atlantic University held it’s seventh Annual Scholar’s Night on Saturday, April 22nd, at the Life Long Center Auditorium on the FAU Campus in Boca Raton. Entitled: “Believe it or not, you were born Muslim!” and featuring a lecture by local speaker Fadi Kablawi, the event was of a preaching nature, its flier posing the question: “What do you call a religion whose beliefs, practices and followers are being bashed and bad-mouthed in practically every sphere of activity, in almost every corner of the globe, yet it attracts ever-increasing number of people? A Miracle? A Paradox? or simply THE TRUTH: ISLAM.” Such straightforward, declarative and reactionary themes have become more rare in Islamic events in the post-9/11 environment. The lecture featured free admission and dinner and was open to all interested. The FAU MSO has seen a resurgent past semester of activity.