Update 9/3/07: Thanks to Svend over at Akram's Razor for the link to this LA Times article that furthers my contention on the US military-Fundamentalist Church tag team that has placed its unfortunate mark on the war on terror.
The article refers to a Christian ministry called Operation Straight Up:
"But thanks in part to the support of the Pentagon, Operation Straight Up has now begun focusing on Iraq, where, according to its website (on pages taken down last week), it planned an entertainment tour called the "Military Crusade.""
Also, the article talks about certain 'freedom packages' that were planned to be given to US military personnel in Iraq:
"What were the packages to contain? Not body armor or home-baked cookies. Rather, they held Bibles, proselytizing material in English and Arabic and the apocalyptic computer game "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" (derived from the series of post-Rapture novels), in which "soldiers for Christ" hunt down enemies who look suspiciously like U.N. peacekeepers."
Al-Jazeera English had a very nice report on the South Korean evangelical churches. The church that had sent the ill-fated missionaries to Afghanistan, according to the report, has the largest single congregation in the world, almost 750,000 strong. South Korea sends over 17,000 missionaries per year all over the world, second only to the US. Pretty amazing stuff. Really check it out:
First of all, let’s stop calling them aid-workers. They were Christian missionaries. They were sent by their church to spread the Gospel. And as Muslims we should have no problem with that.
Historically speaking, the Islamic Khilafa would not accept a nation preventing Muslim missionaries from entering, so why should Muslims take such offence when the tables are turned?
I find many Muslims very hypocritical in their outcry against Christian missionaries in Muslim lands while openly advocating Muslim dawah work the world over.
Moreover, if the missionaries are coming with aid in hopes of enticing the local population away from Islam, primary blame should go on the incompetent Muslim government.
However a strong argument can be made that the government and overall Afghan society has been weakened by outside occupational forces, so these missionaries are in essence adding salt to the wound inflicted by the US and allies – I can’t really argue against that geo-political reality.
That’s why I find it very disgusting when the two slain missionaries are called martyrs (as an interviewed representative from the S Korean church referred to them, adding that Islamic extremists take innocent lives while their missionary workers save innocent lives).
True they were murdered, but the realities on the ground cannot be ignored. If they had gone to Malaysia or Jordan and had been killed, I would indeed consider them honorable martyrs deserving our utmost respect.
However, in the context of the ongoing American invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, these Evangelicals cannot be seen as innocent aid workers. With the perception of the war on terror as a continuation of the Crusades and the staunchly Christian US Army providing the armed forces, the Korean missionaries are seen as part and parcel of this 21st century campaign against Islam, no matter how nicely they package their presence in Afghanistan (as Christian aid-workers, NGO volunteers, people wanting to dance with orphans, etc.).
Whereas in the medieval Crusades, the Church instigated and sanctioned the attacks with the military forces following, the latest adaptation sees the military paving the way for the Church’s work. In both cases, I don’t see the Church as being innocent. Their guilt in the former case has been historically documented. As for the latter, the Church must show a greater level of political and cultural sensitivity when sending their missionary workers to hostile environments that are under the occupation of predominantly Christian military forces.
I’ll give the Koreans the benefit of the doubt and say they were being naïve.
Yeah, just naïve.
Friday, August 31, 2007
Update 9/3/07: Thanks to Svend over at Akram's Razor for the link to this LA Times article that furthers my contention on the US military-Fundamentalist Church tag team that has placed its unfortunate mark on the war on terror.
I had the weirdest dream last night. I was sitting with Matt Dillon.
I told you it was crazy weird.
Not sure why or how (it may have to do with the Outsiders being my all-time favorite film, but I haven’t watched it in years so why the hell was he in my dreams?!), but he was chillin’ with a few of us and before he got up to leave, I approached him for an autograph.
But then out of nowhere, I got misty-eyed and said the following:
"You know what’s so sad about our times. People will spend an hour or two watching your movie characters and be so moved and inspired by them. Sometimes we’ll even alter our life by the life-altering emotions that are called upon during our 'time' together. And then when we actually see them, we’ll feel so enamored by their effects on our lives that we must get their autograph. Or we must get a stamp of their acknowledgement of our existence. Such is the way of celebrity worship.
But when is the last time we approached our parents and asked them for their autographs? Aren’t they the ones who have truly made a mark on our lives? Haven’t they inspired and moved us to become who and what we are? Don’t they deserve our celebrity worship?"
And then I woke up.
I wonder what Dallas, I mean Matt Dillon would have said. Probably something along the lines of "You’re absolutely right, but you’re also a dork for dreaming about me."
(Then I would probably reply, "Listen here mister, I wasn't dreaming about you. I merely had a dream with you in it. Big difference buddy!")
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
You are my best friend.
Words cannot describe how I feel when you visit.
When you and I sit together, I feel so …refreshed?…liberated? ...fulfilled? ...comforted? ...drained? ... depressed? …remorseful? I feel so…me. I don't need to pretend to be what I am not. You accept me for me.
When we talk, you give me a head rush. Really, my head goes into a spin with all my varying thoughts. Yet I never tire of our sittings.
When you visit, all my other activities are put on hold. You force me to concentrate solely on you. Normally I wouldn't accept such pretentiousness from anyone, but from you it's different.
When I'm with you, no one bothers us. No one. People see us together and they know to leave us alone. The world may think I'm crazy when they see us conversing, but those who understand your beauty, they understand.
And it's amazing how our visits last without you uttering a single word. I do all the talking. You quietly listen. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I smile. Often we both sit and stare at each other. Other times I release all my frustrations. Always you quietly listen.
I most enjoy our late night sessions. Your cold long stares empower me to confront the ugliness of my past. You sit quietly looking into my eyes, motionless, expressionless, undaunted by the heaviness of the moment. You strip me of everything, leaving me quivering in the cold of the night.
Then you grab hold of me. Your warm embraces give me hope, reminding me of the Mercy of the Merciful. Alas I do not have Jibreel (as) to come take hold of me, for that was unique to our dear Prophet (saw) when he was commanded to read. But your embraces will suffice for this meager soul.
But to be honest, for a best friend you don't visit me often enough. Yeah, I know it's my fault that I don't invite you, but sometimes I wish you would come over uninvited, like you used to. Remember those days? I would be engulfed in some tedious task or maybe just daydreaming my time away and out of nowhere you'd drop by. Those were the days! Oh how I wish to return to those days of spontaneous love!
I've tried thinking about Allah (swt) when you aren't around, but its just not the same. The sweetness of dhikr is absent without your presence.
Few are the creations of Allah (swt) that when gazed upon act as an instant reminder of the Creator. You my friend are one of those rare creations. You remind me of my Creator. He blessed me the day I met you. He blesses me everyday that I meet you. And I dread the day that He takes you away from me.
What will I ever do without you?! You are truly my best friend.
خَاشِعَةً أَبْصَارُهُمْ تَرْهَقُهُمْ ذِلَّةٌ وَقَدْ كَانُوا يُدْعَوْنَ إِلَى السُّجُودِ وَهُمْ سَالِمُونَ
"On the Day when man's very being shall be bared to the bone, and when they shall be called upon to prostrate themselves, and shall be unable to do so. Downcast will be their eyes, with ignominy overwhelming them - seeing that they had been called upon to prostrate themselves while they were yet sound [and alive]." (68:42-43)
(Inspired by Ali's conversation with his Beloved)
Monday, August 27, 2007
I don't posit the question in the existentially philosophical way. I'm referring to the more mundane question that I hear all too often from my better half since moving to Saudi Arabia nearly 4 years ago.
We have gone through quite a few challenges and adjustments since me moved to Riyadh from Baltimore. Needless to say, life here is very different and sometimes very difficult.
And I'll be the first to admit that these challenges are magnified for my wife. So whenever these Saudi-style obstacles rear their ugly heads, I end up hearing the dreaded question, 'Why are we here?'
So I figured it would save me countless hours of frustration if I simply documented all the reasons for coming here (and staying here) and then when she feels the need to ask the question, I can conveniently refer her to my blog.
Yes, I know, I'm very thoughtful and considerate. I hear that a lot.
Lets talk about our original reasons for making the move. I've never bought into the school of thought that says that Muslims must make Hijrah to a Muslim land. I don't believe that Muslims living in the West are sinning. So that was not a factor in our move.
At the time, we had been married for almost 10 years and had two young children (ages 6 and 4 at the time). Basically, we felt a need for a change of scenery. We both felt that our lives had become stagnant enough that a change would do us both some good. Fortunately, my company had a branch in Riyadh and so an opportune opportunity sprung up.
Personally, I had been longing to make a jump overseas for the purpose of studying Islam. Syria, Pakistan, and Jordan were options that I had realistically pondered. But I was just too afraid to make the jump.
So when this chance to go to Riyadh came, I was very excited.
Additionally, the thought of raising our kids in America also concerned us as Maryam was about to start kindergarten. We thought since our kids weren't in school yet, this would be a good time to check out Riyadh and see if it’s a better place for raising children.
Of course, the tax-free money didn't hurt, but in comparison to what I was making after-taxes in the US, I was fairing only slightly better in the transition (and that slight benefit of 4 years ago is now long gone as I haven't received a single pay raise since I came).
The greatest challenge of living here has been the lack of a social life. I was raised in Baltimore where I have life-long friends. My brother and sister both live in Baltimore. Most of my wife's family had moved down from Upstate NY to the Baltimore suburbs. So all this presence of family and friends was a source of great happiness.
Plus, we lived walking distance from our local Masjid and that allowed us to be regularly in touch with the 'heart' of the community. Due to our proximity to the Masjid, our house was often a convenient meeting place for family and friends.
All that came to an abrupt end when we moved away. And its not like we moved to a different city on the East Coast where other like-minded Muslims could be found. The move to Riyadh was an entirely different universe. As American-born Muslims, we found a very, very tiny community of American Muslims that we got along with.
This social isolation has been accentuated by the fact that Saudis, in general, do not socialize with non-Saudis. It is extremely rare to see that line crossed. And when it does occur, its in the context of marriage in which a non-Saudi marries into a Saudi family. The non-Saudi partner then introduces other non-Saudis to the Saudi family.
On a slightly contradictory note, I must mention that part of our need for change was founded in our socially active lifestyle. We both agreed that we needed a breather. We needed some time to ourselves. We needed to grow together and strengthen the triangle of faith between us and Allah (swt).
And in all honesty, I believe that we have made great strides towards that goal, especially through our regular trips to Mecca and Madina, as well as our joint Hajj two years ago.
In addition to the social void, there are the more local headaches. My wife doesn't mind the forced abaya since she covers anyways. Nor is the driving a big issue since we have a full-time driver. The greater challenges for her involve the overall abruptness of Saudi society. General manners aren't high on their list of priorities.
Overall she's gotten used to the pushing and shoving in the public bathrooms, the dirty stares in the shopping malls, the line-jumping at the grocery stores, and so on. But every once in a while, things will just pile up and everything will explode. That's when I hear the 'Why are we here?' routine.
For me personally the greatest challenge (besides the aforementioned social void) has been the lack of Islamic activities. The American Masjid is a different monster than the masjid found in the Muslim world. While the former is the heart and soul of the struggling American Muslim minority, the latter is strictly a place of worship – pray and leave. No youth activities, no guest lectures, no fund-raising dinners, no summer festivals. Just pray and leave.
Other nuisances and annoyances that I’ve gotten used to include the inefficiency of the bureaucracy found in all institutions from governments to banks to stores to hospitals. Anything which would have taken me less than an hour will now take more than a day. At first, I would get very upset and flustered, but over the years I have learned to approach these simple tasks with the expectation of delay, interruption, and disorganization.
Another adjustment that I’ve made is accepting the restrictions to my freedoms. For many Westerners this is an extremely foreign concept, but I consider it a trade-off that I’m willing to concede for the benefits gained (as listed below).
The prime example is the travel restrictions. As a non-Saudi under the sponsorship of my company, neither I nor my family are able to leave the country without the company’s permission. Same goes for opening a bank account or buying a vehicle. Another restriction is that only my parents or my wife’s parents can ever come to visit us – no siblings or other relatives.
Finally, the injustices and racial prejudices and oppressions that exist and are well-documented for all to read and see do in fact cause me consternation and alarm. It’s hard to turn a blind eye to the blatant classist racism that exists here. It’s hard to ignore the male chauvinism and the religious hypocrisy and the ineffective justice system and so on. I can never justify or defend such institutions, no matter where they exist. But I rationalize my residence here by the simple reasoning that problems exist everywhere – just in different forms and representations. KSA is no different.
Having said all that, why do I believe that we are still here after nearly four years? Do I need to even mention the Haramain (Mecca and Madina)?
First of all, I can't emphasize enough the spiritual benefit of living in a city that closes down during prayer times. Countless times I have been 'caught' outside a store during prayer time, 'forcing' me to pray at the nearest masjid. What a beautiful 'inconvenience'! I mean, what is the dollar value of a prayer in congregation?
The freedom of not having to stare at the ground when I go to the local shopping mall (you brothers know what I'm talking about) is also a great benefit. The fitnah of the eyes is greatly reduced here in Riyadh. My inner struggle for spiritual purity is made so much more easier with the absence of these unhealthy images.
Overall security is another great advantage. I'm not afraid for my personal safety or that of my family's no matter where we are or what time of day (or night) it is. I have never once felt concerned with a group of young guys standing at a corner street. The worst they have done is shoot glances at my wife. But physical or verbal harm has never been a thought.
I've already posted on the Brown Man Benefit.
Although we haven't taken full advantage of it (we traveled to Turkey and UAE two years ago), but Riyadh's geographical location is very nice especially for American Muslims who are so far away from the rest of the world. We're driving distance from UAE and Bahrain. We're right in the middle of the Middle East. Turkey isn't very far away. Neither is North Africa. Europe is closer to us than to the US. Pakistan is a mere 4 hour flight.
The Internet is filtered. Overall, I don't mind the censoring since many of the nonsense sites are filtered. But sometimes it gets annoying. For some unknown reason Technorati is filtered. So are photos hosted on Blogger.com meaning that many of the pics on Blogspot blogs don't show up. However, the pros outweigh the cons as I'm a bit less concerned for my children when they will eventually start using the Web.
Labor is cheap. So hiring a driver and a maid is very common. Having had this ‘luxury’ for the past several years makes me wonder how I can ever return to a life without them. Man, I know I just came off as a real diva, but I’m just laying it all out for you, my dear reader.
But of all the reasons for us staying here, the greatest reason and the one for which I have yet to find an adequate counter-response is this: On the Day of Judgment when my miserable self will be presented to my Creator and I will be asked about what I did to raise my children properly, I can now answer 'Ya Allah, I searched the world for a proper place for them and in my humble assessment, the best of all the worst places I found was the land of your Prophet (saw) and I acted upon that judgment."
And if, God forbid, my children end up deviating from the straight path, my choice of society in which to raise them cannot be questioned, Insha'Allah – or more importantly, my *intention* behind settling in said society cannot be questioned.
In the end, I hope to answer to Allah that I turned away from the money, the freedoms, the luxuries, the friends and family, the local Masjid and everything else positive that America has to offer (and that my nafs so dearly wants) just to be in a society that I hope and pray is better for my children.
So that is why we are (still) here.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Last night I was able to catch CNN’s special report called God’s Warriors. Overall, there wasn’t anything groundbreaking in the report. Christiane Amanpour gave a nice informative presentation on various Muslim instances around the world.
From the political Ikhwan in Egypt to the theocratic Ayatollahs in Iran to a suicide bomber in Palestine to an American Muslimah in NYC, Amanpour provided a nice balanced view of the Muslim Warrior – although it would have been nice if she had visited the two largest Muslim countries, Indonesia and Pakistan.
She did the mandatory profiles of the equally unlikable Osama bin Laden and Ayaan Hirsi Ali (if you don’t know about her, consider yourself lucky for those extra brain cells you’ve saved) plus one interesting profile of a female ‘jihadi’ – the American-Muslim sister living in NYC, whose jihad is to wear the hijab and practice her Islam in the overly secular American society. Oh, and don't get me started on the cooky Daveed character - not sure if he's still a practicing Muslim. Something just didn't jive about that dude.
Overall a nice compilation of the Islam side of the three-part series called God’s Warriors (she covered the Xian and Jewish warriors in the other two parts). If you saw it, you didn’t really waste your time. And if you missed it, you really didn’t miss too much.
Anyways, I’m not writing to review the program. I wanted to highlight a point brought up by the head of the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen in Egypt. When asked about the Shariah hudood punishments (such as stoning and lashes), Mohammad Akef said very clearly that if Shariah were to be implemented in Egypt today, these punishments would NOT be applied. He reasoned that the appropriate environment has not been established where such punishments can be meted out.
Sadly, this is a point that is lost all too often on the misguided masses, as well as their even more misguided leaders, who call for the punishments as if that is what Shariah is all about.
This point seems almost too obvious to point out (as I feel that many of you already believe this basic precept), but I wanted to highlight parts of Hashim Kamali’s article titled “Punishment In Islamic Law: A Critique Of The Hudud Bill Of Kelantan, Malaysia”, where he summarizes the positions of several 20th century Islamic scholars on the issue of hudood punishment:
"A remarkable fact about the Shari`a", according to Maududi, is that it is "an organic whole" and any arbitrary and selective division of the general scheme of Shari'a is therefore "bound to harm the spirit as well as the structure of the Shari'ah. There were people, Maududi added, who selected a few provisions of the Islamic penal code for implementation without realizing that those provisions need to be viewed against the background of the whole Islamic system of life. To enforce those provisions "in isolation would in fact be against the intention of the Lawgiver".
In his book, Punishment in Islamic Law, Salim el-Awa has quoted Maududi and confirmed his analysis to the effect that Islam envisages a comprehensive scheme of values for society. What has happened is that many Muslim countries have borrowed the penal philosophy of an alien system. Under such circumstances, it is totally wrong, el-Awa adds, to attempt to enforce the hudud as an isolated case. It does not make sense under the present circumstances, el-Awa adds, to amputate the thief's hand when he might have no means of livelihood, or to "punish in any way for zina (let alone stoning to death) in a community where everything invites and encourages unlawful sexual relations". El-Awa then concludes: "One can say that the application of the Islamic penal system under the present circumstances would not lead-to the achievement of the ends recommended by this system".
Commenting on the hadd of adultery, al-Qaradawi has also underscored the change of environment and the temptations that modern society has created. We have, on the one hand, the high, and in some places, exorbitant costs that are incurred in marriage, dower, and what follows, that is providing a house and furniture etc., and. on the other hand, the numerous other temptations that tax the limits of individual self-restraint:
The justice of Islam does not admit the logic that the command of God is executed on the thief as punishment for what he or she might have stolen and yet we neglect the command of God on the payment of zakah (legal alms) and the social support system (al-takaful al'ijtimai') of Islam. There is only one verse in the Qur'an on the hadd of theft but literally dozens of ayat (versey on zakah and helping the poor.
Muhammad al-Ghazali has advanced a similar argument and finds certain aspects of the debate on the enforcement of hudud to be less than acceptable and convincing. "We do not dispute", wrote al-Ghazali, "that the hudud are a part of Islam, but we find it strange that they are considered to be the whole of it". To enforce the hudud, we need to establish an Islamic political order first. Ghazali went on to comment, "we wish to see these punishments enforced ... but not so that the hand of a petty thief be cut while those punishments are waived in cases of embezzlement of fantastic funds from public treasury".
These and similar considerations have led Mustafa al-Zarqa to the conclusion that the prevailing environment is unsuitable for the enforcement of hudud. He then invokes the legal maxim of Shari'a that, "necessity makes the unlawful permissible al-darurat tubihu al-mahzurat", (the origin of this legal maxim is Qur'anic (al-Baqarah, 2:173). Al-Zarqa further adds, when emergency or unavoidable situations hinder an obligation (wajib) then the latter may be temporarily postponed. Based on this argument al-Zarqa concluded that the hudud may be substituted with temporary measures and alternative punishments until such a time when conditions are right for their proper enforcement.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Not sure if any of you realized this, but Pakistan just celebrated its 60th birthday. So I thought this would be an opportune time to rehash the Jinnah and the Islamic State debate. I was actually reminded of this by Professor Pervez Hoodbhoy's article on this topic.
Overall it was a well written article as he tried to objectively address the subject of Muhammad Ali Jinnah's stance on a secular versus Islamic State in Pakistan. However, he failed to address some very simple points on the issue.
So as a service to you all, I figured that I would quickly address this subject so next time you're hangin' with your boyz at a pizza joint talking about the origins of Pakistan or you and the sisters are chillin' at a Henna party arguing over Jinnah's view on the Islamic State, you would have some talking points.
You can thank me later...
It seems when the liberal lot want to argue for a secular state in Pakistan, they consistently revert to its founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and his staunchly secular stance. I find this approach very dishonest and insincere.
First of all, no one will argue Jinnah's secular beliefs. He actually made them very clear in his infamous August 11, 1947 speech where he said:
"You may belong to any religion, caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the state... in due course of time Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to Muslims- not in a religious sense for that is the personal faith of an individual- but in a political sense as citizens of one state."
But in other venues, he also made many references to an Islamic state:
"Therefore Islam is not merely confined to the spiritual tenets and doctrines or rituals and ceremonies. It is a complete code regulating the whole Muslim society, every department of life, collective[ly] and individually.", Eid Speech, September 1945
"Let us lay the foundations of our democracy on the basis of true Islamic ideals and principles", Karachi, October 1947
Professor Hoodbhoy refers to this event in his article:
"...in a broadcast address to the people of the United States of America in February 1948 - (ironically, the same speech of which a portion was quoted earlier in this essay as an example of Jinnah coming out forcefully against theocracy), Jinnah described Pakistan as “the premier Islamic State”."
So I think any references to Jinnah are inconclusive as its clear from studying his political career that he was a master politician. His greatest skill was in uniting the liberal elite with the conservative layman – both groups were needed to separate from India and create Pakistan, which was his ultimate goal.
When found in a setting of the religious, Jinnah called for an Islamic state. When needed to unite various groups, Jinnah became a secularist.
Ultimately, his practice shows him to be a secularist, as Professor Hoodbhoy concludes in his article.
But I contend all that is besides the point. Because he wasn't alone in the creation of Pakistan.
So many of his peers were explicitly clear in their calling for a nation governed by the principles of the Quran and Sunnah that it makes absolutely no sense when the secularists invoke Jinnah and his beliefs.
Allama Iqbal, the soul of Pakistan to Jinnah's brain, was consistent in his writings for the need to return to the principles of the Quran.
In an Eid message to the nation in 1945, he said:
"Every Muslim knows that the injunctions of the Quran are not confined to religious and moral duties. Everyone except those who are ignorant, knows that the Quran is the general code of the Muslims. A religious, social, civil, commercial, military, judicial, criminal and penal code; it regulates everything from the ceremonies of religion to those of daily life; from the salvation of the soul to the health of the body; from the rights of all, to those of each individual; from morality to crime; from punishment here to that in the life to come, and our Prophet (S) has enjoined on us that every Muslim should possess a copy of the Holy Quran and be his own priest. Therefore, Islam is not confined to the spiritual tenets and doctrines and rituals and ceremonies. It is a complete code regulating the whole Muslim society in every department of life, collectively and individually."
Muhammad Asad, the first Pakistani ambassador to the UN, wrote a very poignant article on the Islamic nature of the Pakistani state.
Liaqaut Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister, proposed the Objectives Resolution which included the very unsecular statement "the Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah". The Resolution was passed by the Constituent Assembly in March 1949, less than one year after Jinnah's death.
I understand that the facts on the ground today are very different from all these historical references. But I just wanted to debunk the oft-used tactic of a secular Jinnah when attempting to counter the Islamic State argument for Pakistan.
Monday, August 20, 2007
MrEspy has tagged me with the meme tag. It’s a cute little game that requires me to share 8 random facts. I say cute because it’s a casual way of breaking down the barriers of the anonymous screen names.
Let's start with the rules.
1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.
So here are my eight random facts.
1. I have a 9yr old daughter, Maryam, and 7yr old son, Humza. Having a daughter as a first child is an unbelievable blessing. Maryam takes on the role of a second mother and does so much around the house as well as with her younger brother. So if ever the day comes when you can genetically modify the sex of your firstborn, choose XX.
2. I love to drive. Ever since my 5-hour treks between Baltimore and Albany during my college days, I’ve loved to drive. It’s very therapeutic. And here in Riyadh, its gotten even more special. The 8-hour drives from Riyadh to Mecca or Madina through the vast open desert really allows for so much deep thought. Like the shepherds who utilize the long hours of the desert stillness to contemplate on the deeper questions of life, I make use of the long drives for profound introspection. The craziest thing we ever did was last Ramadan, when the wife and I left from Riyadh to Mecca for Umrah, got there at Maghrib, finished Umrah by the end of Tarawih prayers and drove straight back arriving in Riyadh right at Suhoor time. My energy that day was sourced purely from the spiritual fumes of Ramadan. I have no other explanation.
3. I know I will regret sharing this, but I am a recovering Bollywood addict. During my early college years, I got caught up with the ‘wrong’ crowd and ended up watching way too many Bollywood movies (hey, cut me some slack…it coulda been a lot worse, right?). I was in between stages in my search for myself. In high school, I was all into the gangsta rap with NWA and Ice-T. Thank your Lord that you didn’t know me back then…nothing worse than a gangsta-wannabe listening to Amitabh’s greatest hits. Anyways, be thankful that you don’t know what I’m talking about when I refer to Ram Lakhan or Lamhe. And if you do, seek help.
4. I would never marry a second wife. There is no way I could handle the trials and tribulations of a second woman in my life (no disrespect to women, but ya’ll know what I’m talkin’ ‘bout). And no, my wife is not standing over my shoulder.
5. I’ve gotten very spoiled living here in Riyadh. I have a driver who takes care of the garden and the car. I have a maid who cooks and clean (no, I’m not referring to my wife...How dare you suggest such a thing!). Now, I just need to hire someone to go to work for me and I’ll be set!
6. I’ve been in the IT field ever since I got out of college and I can’t stand it. I’m only doing it for the sake of sustaining my family. If it were upto me, I would leave this hi-tech world behind and move to a village where I would live off the land, dedicating all my time to my Lord and my family. I know many of you are probably thinking that my soft self could never handle the tough life of a villager and you’re probably right. That’s why I would end up hiring someone to do all the hard work saving my hands for the real work of eating fresh prathas made with fresh ghee and fresh chai made with fresh milk.
7. I’m struggling with my love for humanity. I pray for the day that I love my fellow man the way our beloved Prophet did. I’m too selfish. I find myself praying for myself and my family, but I don’t pray enough for mankind. I so badly wish for the deep-seated concern for my neighbor that the Prophet so perfectly embodied. He agonized and suffered for their salvation, friend and foe alike. The way he responded with such love and compassion when the people of Taif ran him out of town, Ya Allah! I get upset when someone cuts in front of me at the grocery store.
8. I’ve been blessed with a great set of parents. I love both my mothers and both my fathers. All four are so different – I’ve learned soo much from them, especially since my parents are traditional Pakistanis and my wife’s parents are traditional Palestinians. Please pray that my wife and I are given the opportunity to serve them in their old age and pray that we fulfill that responsibility to Allah’s pleasure.
I'm having a hard time choosing eight people who haven't already been tagged..I hope seven is good enough.
1. Amy (sorry if you've already been tagged before)
2. TariqH (I know MrEspy tagged you, but since you haven't complied, I figured some peer pressure would do the trick)
3. Lone Leaf (Dude, where's your blog?!)
And these folks don't have their own blogs (they really should), so I'll simply ask them to give their eight random facts in the comments section here:
Now that I've complied to the Meme Tag requirements, you are all invited over to my house for Mr Espy's samosa. Hey, I figure if he can make empty promises, why can't I make empty invitations?! :-)
Monday, August 20, 2007 | | 24 Comments
Sunday, August 19, 2007
I would like to turn your attention to two blogs that I've recently added to my Bloglist.
First there's Sr. Amy's blog, Ibnat al-Hidayah: Daughter of Guidance. I've been reading her blog for some time and I've found many of her writings very intriguing. She presents the perspective of a convert sister that I feel is very much needed in our communities. Check out her latest post on Undercover Converts, which addresses the very sensitive subject of converts struggling with their newfound faith.
Br. Tariq, the anthropologist, over at The Vision Quest has a very deep and insightful blog. He addresses many topics that need to be voiced but are all too often lost in the shuffle of headline news and politics. Plus, the brother can write!
I hope you go over and check out their works. It would be a good usage of your time, especially after all the time you wasted here. :-)
Sunday, August 19, 2007 | | 1 Comments
Friday, August 17, 2007
As I've scoured the Islamosphere landscape, I've felt most comfortable on those sites and blogs where the author feels secure enough to discuss his/her background. This removal of one half of the anonymous relationship between the blog reader and its writer goes a long way in building a comfort level, IMO.
Reading an occasional article here or a quick post there does not require the reader to know anything about the writer. However, as the reader returns on a regular basis, there develops a curiosity to know about the writer's background. What has made him think this way? Why does she say what she says? What angle is the writer coming from?
I understand the need for anonymity as it allows the writer to free him/herself from any possible stereotypes and preconceived notions. There is strong argument to be made for such an equalizer in this day and age of uber-racism and insta-stereotypes.
Conversely, there is a lot to be said about the reader knowing the writer by a bit more than just a screen-name. I’m inclining towards the latter approach.
That being said, I felt it fitting to properly introduce myself:
Born into a Muslim family in good ‘ol US of A, my life has so far been a very interesting ride. Looking back, I realize that my past 25 years of adulthood have very neatly paralleled the famous hadith Jibreel.
The first stage of my Islamic development was in the presence of my dear father as well as Dr. Mohammad Adam El-Sheikh, long standing member of the ISNA Fiqh Council of North America. He was the Imam at our local Masjid in Baltimore and he basically introduced me to Islam and its fundamentals. This was my Islam stage.
I was a good little Muslim boy, making my prayers, reading my Quran, and all the other things that good little Muslim boys do. I didn’t question anything my father or Sheikh Adam taught me. My understanding of Islam was at the Sunday School level: Life is a big test culminating in the Day of Judgment where a scale will be placed weighing your good versus bad deeds – those with more good would end up in Heaven while those with more bad would suffer in Hellfire.
With that mindset, my ultimate goal in life was to simply do as many good deeds as possible while avoiding the major bad deeds. Very cut and dry. Too cut and dry.
My next stage began when I went away to college. I was blessed with some very understanding Pakistani parents who for some unknown reason actually trusted me away from home (or just wanted to get rid of me).
In upstate NY, I really matured in my Islamic development and was lucky to be in the company of some very special brothers, two of whom aided me greatly in my Iman stage. Imams Mokhtar Moghraoui and Djafer Sebkhaoui introduced to me a whole new understanding of Islam. At this stage of my life I began questioning and this process allowed me to soar to greater intellectual heights.
I recall one conversation with Imam Mokhtar where I confessed a nagging doubt that was running through my mind, like some dirty thought shrouded with guilt. ‘What if the Christians are right and we are wrong? What if Jimmy Swaggart is right and you are wrong? What if the Afterlife is not as we Muslims envision it?’
My question was not a defiant one, rather one doused with confusion and fear. Still I expected a strong tongue-lashing for the blasphemous nature of my question. Fortunately he was very understanding in his counsel and surprisingly encouraged me to question more. All too often, inquiring Muslim minds are stifled by fear of being ostracized for daring to question.
And I am convinced that it was this nurturing of the intellect that enabled me to convert to Islam. Yes you read that correctly. I converted to Islam in 1992.
Based on my experience, I firmly believe that EVERY Muslim must convert to Islam at one point in their lives. We must revalidate our primordial contract with our Lord when He asked all of mankind, ‘Am I not your Lord?’ and we all answered ‘Indeed’.
For my entire life, I had been raised as a Muslim under the caring shade of my father. I was a Muslim solely because *he* made me so. It was never a conscious decision on my part. I was never given the choice (and that itself was a great protection from Allah) until I was ready. It was only when I went away and stepped out from my father’s shadow that I was finally given choices.
And it was after two years in college that I finally made the decision to consciously become a Muslim. Not by name or by culture or by law or by force or by fear. I had entered into a realm of intellectual certainty wherein I *believed* that Islam was the truth. I remember the exact moment that this epiphany hit me and it was then that I took my shahadah.
When I returned to Baltimore, years passed as I labored with my Islam and Iman, volunteering at the local Masjid, attending study circles with the brothers, working with the youth and so on. It was during these years that Allah was preparing me for the next phase in my spiritual growth.
This most beautiful of preparations took place in the form of my marriage.
Marriage completed me, made me whole, filled my voids, and forced me to grow. Marriage was the conduit to the next stage, the stage of Ihsan. Without the bridge of marriage, I would have been trapped toiling on the coast of Islam and Iman, only dreaming of the beauties that lie on the faraway island of Ihsan.
Sheikh Muhsin Najjar, associated with the Haba’ib from Tarim, Yemen, introduced me to the spirit of Ihsan. He taught me that Islam is beyond the physical acts of worship and the associated calculus of good deeds versus bad deeds.
He taught me that Iman is beyond the cerebral certitude that too often puts a glass ceiling on our spiritual growth. He taught me that my journey to Jannah is not only in following the Prophet (saw), but loving the Prophet (saw). He taught me that dhikr (rememberance) of Allah (swt) is more important to my soul than breathing is to my body. Check that, he didn’t just teach me, he *showed* me.
All these special individuals in my life, I believe, had the proper understanding of Islam, Iman, and Ihsan. It was I who was not prepared for the complete message they were passing along. I had to proceed phase by phase until I was physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually prepared for the next phase. And it just so happened that a different individual was there to pull me up to the next level.
I am in deep gratitude to all these extraordinary persons who helped mold and shape me into my current form. But this pile of clay and mud, known to all of you as Naeem Aslam, is far from complete.
Having climbed up the ladder and taken a quick whiff of the sweet air found only at special altitudes of spiritual bliss, I find myself regularly falling back down to this world. But the paradoxical beauty of this fall is that each time I dust off my worldly desires and shoo away my inner demons, I am able to climb back up on the ladder of Divine Love and reach an even higher rung, bringing me breathtakingly closer to my final destiny, Allah.
Welcome to my world! Hope you enjoy your stay.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
I've felt for quite some time great unease with the apologetic tone that many Muslims have employed over the years, especially when discussing certain touchy subjects such as jihad or concubinage.
And I've said before that its high time we take back the narrative of this discourse and stay true to our faith. I really felt Dr. Sherman Jackson expressed my sentiments perfectly in his response to several questions (on Jihad, Apostasy, and Women's Rights) posed to him at the Newsweek On Faith forum:
"These questions are topical and pointed. They are also, however, hegemonic, in that they proceed on the apparent assumption that Western norms (presumed to be uncontested among Westerners themselves) are both the proper point of reference and the most ideal manifestation of the values under consideration. As I have stated in previous posts, this has the effect of forcing Muslims out of an explanatory posture and into an apologetic one, where the aim shifts from simply speaking about Islam to attempting to assuage Western fears, prejudices and misunderstandings. In such a context, the very fact of a Muslim response can, if we are not careful, serve to dignify such fears and prejudices as legitimate, with the result that Westerners end up subjecting Islam and Muslim apologetics to meticulous critique, while leaving their own fears, prejudices and misunderstandings unchallenged."
Then he continues to explain that the answers given by Muslims are inevitably met with suspicion and distrust due to the idealistic nature of the questions and the practical real-life examples with which they are compared. He accurately points out that such a duplicitous approach would cause reproach if enacted upon Christians or Jews:
"On another level, these questions appear to be asking about ideals, while the credibility of the answers given are likely to measured by reality. Imagine a question like, “How does Christianity reconcile the notion of racial and gender equality with the concept of a white, male divinity?” Or “How does Judaism reconcile the concept of “goyim” with Western notions of tolerance and equality?” Then, imagine how honest, learned, conscientious Jews and Christians would feel if the answers they gave were only met by a list of actions carried out by bigoted, unlearned, and or perhaps barely practicing Jews and Christians as proof of what real Christianity and Judaism teaches."
I strongly suggest you to check out the rest of his article as he addresses the three topics with a balanced approach.
But that is not why I'm posting today.
I wanted to bring up the issue of Muslim Anger. Its something that I believe has been relegated to the dustbin of emotions-not-allowed-in-a-post-9/11-world. Its something we have accepted as a detestable state of being. Images of Pakistanis burning effigies, Syrians attacking Danish embassies, and Palestinians throwing stones have led us to feel embarrassed with our anger, our legitimate anger.
As we have done with our understanding of Jihad and Apostasy, we have done with Muslim Anger. We have denied it a voice at the table, casually laughing it away as irrelevant – like some crazy uncle at a family reunion. We have suppressed its reality and denied its significance. We have tried to exorcise it.
But we can not. We must not.
Anger for the sake of truth and justice is an Islamic responsibility. Anger for the sake of Allah is a personal duty.
I really liked what Sr Aaminah wrote about Muslim Anger in her post quite appropriately titled 'Can Muslims be Happy?':
"You gotta believe I feel that way even more so for my Muslim brothers. That anger is justified. It should not be swallowed. And although we should be patient and forebearing and persevere, although we need to trust in Allah’s Plan and know that these are lessons for us, we also do not need to allow ourselves to be trampled upon. There is a time and a place, a right way and a wrong way, to express our anger. But sometimes it does need to be expressed. And because we are humans, some days we are going to be feeling the anger more than others, some days we are going to wish we could just scream at the world. We have to work through that. We have to get control of our nafs, but this is not done by avoiding them or acting as if the problem does not exist. And we must realize that although we have those days of anger, and valid reasons to feel as we do, we also have much to be thankful for and many days of happiness and enjoyment."
And the manifestation of this anger is conditional upon us fighting our nafsi desires, as she correctly states, 'We have to get control of our nafs'.
The anger that I am referring to is not the blind rage fueled by hatred and bigotry and ignorance. It is not the anger of raising your hand to your wife or children. It is not the anger of 'defending' your honor at the masjid. It is not the anger of hating your 'kafir' neighbor.
It is the anger of Hadhrat Ali (ra) when he pulled back his sword in the midst of a raging battle when the enemy spit on his face.
It is the anger of Sayyiduna Abu Bakr (ra) when he responded to his son's remark, “Oh my father, on the day of Badr (when I was a kafir) I was avoiding you so we wouldn’t have to fight” by saying, "as for me, if I met you on that day I would have killed you."
It is the anger of our beloved Prophet (saw) when he rebuked Usama bin Zayd for killing the man who exclaimed the Shahada as Usama raised his sword to him, “Did you kill him after he said it (the Shahadah)!?” Usamah replied, “Oh Messenger of Allah, he only said it out of fear of the sword.” “Did you look into his heart?! Oh Usamah,” replied the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him.
It is a controlled anger. It is a focused, purposeful anger. But it is an anger nonetheless.
I am a proud of my Muslim Anger. Are you?
Let me finish off with this one amazing clip of poet Amir Sulaiman. I've watched it over and over again and each time I swear I get goosebumps and teary-eyed.
Monday, August 13, 2007
OK, I'm here to rant a bit. I know, you're probably thinking, 'sheesh Naeem that's all you do, so what's so different now?'
Fine, you have a point...can I continue?
Anyways, here goes:
Foods Tastes Better With McDonald's Logo, Kids Say
You all know about my distaste for fast food (especially McDonald's). Plus I've recently found another reason not to like Burger King: they fry many of their products in the same oil as their pork sausage and pork fritters (although here in Saudia that isn't a problem since pork based products are not sold here. Woohoo for me.)
But this article at Forbes really takes the cake. It cites a recent study that found that advertising by McDonald's "literally brainwashes young children into a baseless preference for certain food products."
This is truly disgusting and extremely conniving. But hey, all's fair in love, war, and capitalism.
"It is estimated that McDonald's spend more than $1 billion dollars per year on U.S. advertising..."It's really an unfair marketplace out there for young children," Robinson said."
No S**t Sherlock!
"McDonald's responded by saying that it is dealing with the problem."
By laughing all the way to the bank. Those bastards.
"There is general consensus among those of us in public health that the marketing of foods of poor nutritional quality to children should be regulated, if not abolished," Katz said."
Gee, you really gotta hand it to these 'professionals'; they come up with the most ingenious finds.
Naeem, who is totally unprofessional, says, "There is a general consensus among those of us *with common sense* that the marketing of foods of poor nutritional quality to children should be regulated, if not abolished."
Muslim Panel to Promote Dialogue
Here is a continuation of a very unfortunate trend: Government appointed scholars taking the lead in directing the Muslim Ummah. Egypt and Saudi Arabia have institutionalized this. The Jordanian monarchy is now trying to make a name for itself in this field. They spearheaded the Amman Message several years ago and now this.
I recall having a discussion over at Saifuddin's blog and he mentioned this as one of the first steps in reforming our current situation, namely the separation of government and our scholars. I'm beginning to see the wisdom behind his opinion.
Our tradition has clearly established that scholars and state don't mix. I forget if it was a saying of the Prophet or someone else, but it goes something like this: 'Don't trust the scholar who is found at the doorstep of the sultan rather trust the sultan who is found at the doorstep of the scholar.'
Before I get labeled as a secularist, these are two very different issues. Secularists call for a strict separation of religion and the state. I am simply saying that I don't trust a group of scholars who are on the government payroll to pass on truly objective knowledge.
Just as the west has discovered that an independent judiciary is necessary, the Muslims need to come to a similar conclusion – our ulema need to be independent.
Musharraf wants exiled Pakistan leaders to stay away
Our favorite two exiled Pakistani prime ministers are back in the news. Why the hell aren't Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif rotting in jail somewhere in Siberia?!?
But instead, like vultures flying around a rotting carcass, these two scavengers are hovering around smelling Musharraf's political blood and waiting to dive in for the scraps.
I just can't believe that these two jokers are even in the news.
Bhutto was unceremoniously ousted from her Prime Minister position due to corruption scandals, not once, but TWO TIMES! Her Wikipedia entry reads like a international criminal rap sheet – Pakistan, Switzerland, Poland, France, and Middle East. Bhutto and her weasel husband are accused of funneling tens of millions of dollars into foreign bank accounts (Pakistani government's estimates are closer to 1.5billion).
I mean, for god's sake, Interpol had issued a 'red notice' (falling just short of a warrant) for her arrest last year!
Nawaz Sharif, no choirboy himself, was in power between Bhutto's two stints. He shares with her an uncanny penchant for corruption (truth be told, that's a genetic defect found in many Pakistanis). He was convicted of stealing millions of dollars and is currently exiled in KSA.
And what does it say about a people who have thrice kicked out their prime ministers on corruption charges and they are still talking of returning?!
Pakistanis are very forgiving? Maybe, but I'll stick with abject poverty and other societal ills sidetracking the polity from 'petty' issues of who will govern the country.
"Bhutto and Musharraf met secretly in Abu Dhabi last month but Bhutto has insisted that Musharraf should resign from the army to pave the way for any pact.
Sharif, ousted by Musharraf, petitioned the Supreme Court last week, seeking directives for the government to lift restrictions on his return."
Three scoundrels looking for ways to get a piece of the Pakistani pie. How nice.
Iraq Contractors Accused in Shootings
This is a news item that needs repeating. There are as many 'private military contractors' (a gentle euphemism for mercenaries) in Iraq as US military personnel. They are ABOVE local Iraqi law and they are ABOVE the US uniform code of military justice:
"They operate in a decidedly gray legal area. Unlike soldiers, they are not bound by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Under a special provision secured by American-occupying forces, they are exempt from prosecution by Iraqis for crimes committed there."
Not sure why this isn't bigger news.
Divorce Among Young Couples Widespread
A semi-surprising article on the alarming rate of divorce in Saudi Arabia. I say semi-surprising because everything the article mentions is very evident to anyone living in Saudi. The youth are spoiled beyond belief. The parents are very detached from their children. Saudi bedouin society has been propelled into the 21st century without a substantial transition period. Not the most suitable environment for young marriages.
The article does state one interesting finding:
“Parents also play negative roles in advising their children. Fathers tell their married daughters to leave their husbands when marriages become rocky. They tell them they’re welcome to stay at their house, while husbands are told by their dads that they’re allowed to divorce and at liberty to marry 10 other women,” said Abu Rashid.
I can potentially see such a similar trend happening in the west. Affluent Muslim families will play a more active and even aggressive role in fending for their married daughters. At the first sign of trouble, the parents will be more than willing to 'bail out' the daughter. Whereas in poorer societies, taking on a responsibility for a divorcee with several children was not economically feasible, that obstacle is not there anymore.
There are obviously more variables involved in making such decisions (such as abuse by the husband, etc.), but the impatience of the parents ought to be considered as seriously problematic.
I'm working on a separate post on Muslim divorces, so I'll go into more details then.
Pencil removed from German's head
"A woman in Germany who has spent 55 years with part of a pencil inside her head has finally had it removed."
Hey if a woman can remove a pencil stuck in her brain after 55 years, there's hope for the Muslim Ummah to remove the countless pencils stuck in our collective brain after a thousand plus years.
See, I'm not all negative ;-)
Saturday, August 11, 2007
We've all heard of the saying 'keeping up with the Joneses' – it refers to the social pressures of maintaining a lifestyle similar to one's neighbors and friends.
And many of us have heard of the countering Prophetic tradition with the meaning 'When comparing your status in this world, look to those beneath you. When comparing your status in the after-world, look to those above you.'
Look to those much less fortunate and quell your materialistic desires. And look to those in the ranks of the God-fearing and pious to instill that burning desire to improve your own spiritual lot.
This most beautiful approach gives us the proper perspective if ever we get caught up in the vicious cycle of 'keeping up with the Joneses'.
So it was with sheer disgust and even greater empathy that I read this NY Times article on Silicon Valley millionaires who don't feel rich.
“But a few million doesn’t go as far as it used to. Maybe in the ’70s, a few million bucks meant ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,’ or Richie Rich living in a big house with a butler. But not anymore.”
Ya Allah! I pray that we never become so disconnected from the trials and tribulations of our less-fortunate fellow humans that such blasphemous words spew forth from our mouths.
Sadly there are too many young Muslims climbing up the ladders of affluence get caught up in this rat-race of life, constantly creating new 'reasons' for their material immersion, constantly convincing themselves that their worldly struggle is warranted.
I need a car.
The wife needs a car.
We need a nicer car.
We need a house.
We need a bigger house.
We need to put the kids into a good school.
We need to save for college.
We need to save for their marriages.
We need to save for retirement.
We need, we need, we need.
In actuality, there is very little 'need' involved. It is mostly 'want'.
And before we know it, we all end up like the Silicon Valley millionaires.
“Everyone around here looks at the people above them,” said Gary Kremen, the 43-year-old founder of Match.com, a popular online dating service. “It’s just like Wall Street, where there are all these financial guys worth $7 million wondering what’s so special about them when there are all these guys worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”
The real question is whether we will ever make that decision to willfully pull back on our consumer-based lifestyle or will we be forced to by external factors?
Hey folks, check out the latest installment of the monthly Carnival of Islam in the West. This month's edition is being hosted by Sr. Samaha.
You'll find over 20 articles featuring a wide variety of opinions from across the Islamosphere.
In case you wish to browse past editions, check out the Islam in the West Blog Carnival home page.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Lets all take a break from the daily drudge of the world news and get some badly needed therapy. Sit back, relax and watch this video:
I personally found the silent laughter technique to be most effective, especially considering my cubicle-based work environment. I wouldn't want anyone to think I'm crazy or anything. Silent laughter is clearly the best remedy for a rude co-worker or an obnoxious boss.
On the other hand, if you're in the middle of an argument with your spouse and you really need to release some stress, the cackling, annoying laugh would be my suggested route.
You see, it would serve a two-fold benefit. Number one, it would help let off some steam and defuse the tension and number two it would really really annoy the heck out of your spouse, especially when done directly in their face.
Yaaay for Laughing Yoga Man!
And for those of you who don't speak Desi English, the man's repeating 'I'm happy, I'm relaxed'. So when you're practicing this technique, be sure to try your best to replicate the Desi accent - that'll definitely enhance your experience.
Now, don't you feel better already?
How does this qualify for a Good News Post, you may ask. The good news is that the Yoga dude is NOT a Muslim. God knows we have enough wierdos among our ranks. Let's all breathe a sigh of relief for that great blessing! Can I get an 'Alhamdul-Allah!'??
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
I'm no fan of HT (Hizbu-Tahrir), ever since their heyday in the early 90's when their minions would subversively crash the MYNA EZ conferences, wreaking havoc in the minds of countless young Muslims.
So in my critique of this NY Times article, I am more offended by the subtle inferences made by the author than the fact that she chose HT as the object of her drive-by smear job.
To start with, the top picture shows the back of a group of scarved sisters with the following caption: "An audience segregated by gender applauded defenders of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a radical Islamic party, during a conference in London."
So the writer Jane Perlez seems to be associating 'segregation by gender' with 'a radical Islamic party'. Nice start.
"An international radical Islamic party...launched a frontal attack on its critics at a carefully stage-managed conference"
Typical objective journalism by our friends over at NY Times. 'Launched a frontal attack'??? Couldn't she find a more nuanced metaphor?
Here's one for her: 'The blood-thirsty Muslims held a political orgy featuring a cut-throat presentation defending their Al-Qaeda-like ideology'
"...that attracted several thousand relatively well-heeled Muslims."
Its important to mention that the audience was not made up of uneducated hooligans and easily dismissible ruffians. Ms. Perlez wants her audience to know that this new group of terrorists are educated, affluent, and very indistinguishable. This will be a recurring theme in her article.
"it was held at the Alexandra Palace, a 19th-century entertainment complex in grand gardens in northern London, and drew a largely professional audience — IT managers, bankers, teachers"
Yup, your co-worker who sports a beard or dons the scarf and shows all signs of normalcy may have been present at the extravagant Alexandra Palace. These rich, yuppie terrorists must be exposed!
"A strictly run cell-based organization, the party does not announce membership numbers."
Hmmm...what other well-known group is 'a strictly run cell-based organization'?
"“If you look at the political structure in the Muslim world, it’s a police state,” said Mohammed Baig, 28, a second-generation British Indian who is an asset manager specializing in corporate governance"
Not sure why his career of choice was important to mention. Oh yeah, I forgot. We're trying to create a new profile for the terrorist next-door – Muslim doctors, engineers, IT managers, bankers, teachers, etc.
"Why did Hizb ut-Tahir not work for the goal of the caliphate in Britain, asked someone in the audience during a question-and-answer session.
“We focus our work where we can get the quickest results,” said Mr. Abuzahra, the academic."
Mr. Abuzahra, the academic.
Very telling last words for a very telling article.
Monday, August 6, 2007
Here's another great article by Cindy Sheehan. I've posted before on her straight shooting style.
Once again, she cuts through the bull:
"Congress and BushCo have dismal approval ratings, but what does that say about “We the People?” It says that in our Representative Republic, “We” have no say. That’s because many of us believe that our responsibilities in that Representative Republic are fulfilled in the voting booth. If we don’t stand up to the people whom we employ and pay and make sure our votes count literally and for what we stand for, then we are doomed to being ruled by the ruthless elite who get their legislative orders from the special interests."
Sadly, both she and I have this one thing in common: We complain alot, but offer very little in the form of resolving the problems. Ok, so she's done a bit more than me...stop nitpicking!
But she's still lacking in terms of real practical solutions for the problems she so poignantly highlights.
She finishes with this nice one-liner:
"Nothing is going to change until we put people before the politics of profit or the profit of politics."
My only question is what does she really expect to accomplish in running for Congress?
Sunday, August 5, 2007
As I read this beautifully written post by Br. Tariq, I was instantly reminded of a beautiful parable I heard a while back.
When Iblis rejected Allah's command to bow down to Adam causing Allah to curse him, Iblis responded with a bloodcurdling promise:
"Then will I assault them from before them and behind them, from their right and their left: Nor wilt thou find, in most of them, gratitude (for thy mercies)." (7:17)
This caused the angels to become so distressed that Allah (swt) asked them about their apprehension.
"Ya Allah, we fear for the fate of man. Iblis has made it his life's mission to destroy man and we fear that man will not stand a chance. Iblis has been given the power to enter into the mind of man. He has been given the power of invisibility enabling him to ambush at will. He will attack from all four directions. Ya Allah, what will ever save Adam and his progeny from such a formidable enemy?"
Allah the Most Wise, the Most Merciful answered, "Indeed the accursed Shaytan made his promise and We granted him respite until the Day of Judgment. And it is true that he vowed to attack from the front, back, right, and left of man. However, Iblis failed to consider the other two directions, up and down, which We have expressly granted to the son of Adam as means of protection.
So when man sincerely raises his hands towards the sky and asks of Me, I will not allow him to lower his hands until I have granted his request.
And when man humbly lowers his head down in prostration to Me, I will not allow him to raise his head until I have granted his request."
Thus Allah responded to Iblis:
"As for My servants, no authority shalt thou have over them:" Enough is your Lord as a Protector. (17:65)
And so Allah has granted us the dua'a (by raising our hands and bowing our heads) so as to always give us hope in His infinite Mercy:
Say: "O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah. for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (39:53)
Saturday, August 4, 2007
Sexualisation 'harms' young girls. This is the revelation given to us by a group of US experts. And to think, it only took 'a task force from the American Psychological Association' to come up with these findings. Well gee thanks!
The real question is what will be done to confront these problematic trends in western society?
And for those of you who may be thinking that its no better in Muslim countries, I strongly disagree. The examples of sexualisation cited in the BBC article such as "Young pop stars dressed as sex objects, Dolls aimed at young girls with sexual clothing such as fishnet tights, Clothing, such as thongs, for seven to 10-year-olds, and Adult models dressed as young girls" are not rampant and openly advertised as in the West.
Has the downward spiral begun in the Muslim East? That can be argued, but I've been hearing such talk for the past 10 years and I still don't see a fraction of the sexuality that is so prevalent in the West.
Thursday, August 2, 2007
This is the final part of the three-part series on working out our innerselves. I will finish up with the importance of watching what we digest (physically as well as spiritually)...
Finally, we must keep a healthy diet. Our food must be balanced in order to provide us the proper sources of energy. When constructing a balanced diet, we must ensure that the proper ratio of proteins, carbohydrates and fats are existent in every meal. This ratio actually differs depending on what the individual's specific goals may be – for example, someone wanting to gain muscle will increase the carbohydrate and protein intake while someone trying to burn fat will carefully decrease the carbs and fat.
Similarly, the scholars say that we must maintain a regular diet of ‘Ilm. And as the physical diet must be balanced with the three components of protein, carbs, and fat, this diet of knowledge must also be balanced with three different types of knowledge – knowledge of purifying the nafs, knowledge of fulfilling the fiqhi requirements, and worldly knowledge.
The mainstay of the diet is the protein which equates to knowledge of the nafs. We must strengthen this knowledge so as to be able to understand our carnal desires, our weaknesses, and our attachments. Without protein in the diet, the person will fail to maintain and increase his muscle structure. Without the intimate knowledge of our own nafs, we become weak and susceptible to the ploys of shaytaan.
Then there is the knowledge of the halal and the haram. We must have a clear understanding of what Allah is asking from us. Like the first type, this knowledge is also compulsory. Every diet must have its healthy share of this knowledge. And like a diet without carbs (Atkins) may lead to high cholesterol and gastrointestinal problems, a diet without this knowledge will lead to complications (e.g. extreme Sufis who don’t pray, those who reject the Sunnah).
Conversely, you must not have a diet relying solely on this type of knowledge. The result is evident all around us – over 1 billion Muslims and we are as the foam on the ocean water. We have lost our protein, our strength, our core, our ability to transcend the physical and enter into the divine – our aspiration to worship Allah as if we see Him.
Finally, the fat component of the diet can not be completely discarded. The fact is: we all need fats. Fats helps nutrient absorption, nerve transmission, maintaining cell membrane integrity, etc. However, when consumed in excess amount, fats contribute to weight gain, heart disease and certain types of cancer. Similarly, worldly knowledge is essential for survival, but not to the extent that it overwhelms us and takes over our lives.
Additionally, there are good fats and bad fats. The good fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are like the worldly knowledge that one needs in order to sustain oneself. The bad fats such as saturated fats and hydrogenated fats (trans-fats) should be avoided. This is akin to the worldly knowledge that is of no benefit and thus should be avoided – I’m not referring to haram knowledge for that would be akin to consuming poison. This ‘bad’ knowledge would be any information that is not essential to your survival and it takes away from your pursuit of the first two types of knowledge.
One last point on the issue of the diet and knowledge. They both must be practiced regularly and consistently. We can not do it once a week or every once in a while. That’s not how diets work nor is that how gaining knowledge works. We cannot eat junk food all week long and then expect one day of dieting to undo all the harm of the week. Similarly, we cannot expose our minds to junk in the form of TV, movies, sports, vain talk, and so on and then expect one halaqa session in the masjid to undo all the harm of the week. Our diet of ‘Ilm must be regular.
My friends, in this day and age where we constantly ask each other, ‘How do I look?’ while many others are obsessing over their weight and body-fat percentage, let us have an even greater concern for the health of our inner selves.
Part 1 - Cardiovascular
Part 2 - Weightlifting
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Yesterday in part 1 of this three part series, I introduced a balanced three-pronged approach to purifying the nafs and cleansing the heart. I discussed the importance of *regular* Taubah and how it parallels the physical effects of cardiovascular exercise.
Today in part 2 we'll look at weightlifting.
The essence of lifting weights is to strengthen the muscles. How is this accomplished? By lifting heavy weights that require an exertion of great force, the muscle fibers are actually broken down and made to rebuild themselves.
The key is to shock the muscles by exposing them to an effort that they are not normally attuned to. This effort (or struggle, if you prefer) in turn causes the muscles to breakdown. Then when they rebuild, the new muscles fibers are stronger, larger, and healthier.
Additionally, weightlifting progress is sustained by continually increasing the resistance (i.e. the weight). As you slowly increase the strength of your muscles, you must slowly increase the weight in order to maintain your desired rate of growth. If you choose to lift the same weight over and over, your muscles will cease to react and thus stop growing.
This process is similarly required for our spiritual development. Our inner self (nafs) is that part of us which continuously seeks to fulfill its wishes and desires, contrary to our heart (qalb) which, if healthy and revived, is trying to inspire us to put aside our personal lusts in pursuit of doing whatever pleases our Creator.
We need to lift weights with our nafs by exposing it to 'heavy' acts of worship. We must struggle with acts of mujahadah (inner struggle). This includes the obligatory acts (such as prayer, fasting, obeying parents, etc.) as well as the nawaafil (optional).
If the nafs is not used to this increase in effort, it will become sore and will try to convince you that you are doing too much. However, the nafs must be rejected and the struggle must be made to break it down. It must not be allowed to control you. Rather you must control it. By constantly resisting the nafs with more and more acts of obedience, the worship of the self will be replaced by the worship of the Lord.
However, we must keep close tabs on our progress. If you have achieved a certain level of internal mujahadah and have sustained it for a period of time, then you must augment it with extra acts of worship. This can include tahajjud, eating less, talking less, extra dhikr, and so on. You must constantly monitor your progress or else you will stagnate and eventually begin to regress. This is where some would strongly recommend an experienced 'weight-trainer' who has already gone through the steps and can help you monitor your progress - in the spiritual world, this trainer would be analogous to a sheikh or a pir.
Additionally, its very common in the weightlifting world to have a workout partner. A good partner is key in motivating you and keeping you from slacking in the gym. Similarly, in the struggle against the nafs, good company fulfills the role of the good workout partner. Being in the company of strong individuals who have spiritual goals aligned with yours is essential.
Finally, in weightlifting, you must keep increasing the weight in order to continuously shock your muscles into growth. As we increase the weight, we are tearing the weaker muscle fiber in order to allow it to re-grow as a stronger muscle.
The same applies to the nafs. We must tear down the inner callings of our nafs, destroy the satanic whisperings within us, and overcome our carnal desires by exposing them to sincere acts of worship, such as waking up in the middle of the night, implementing every sunnah of our Beloved (saw), reading (and comprehending) the Quran everyday, fasting the weekly sunnah fasts, keeping our tongues *constantly* busy with the remembrance of Allah, and so on.
This will cause our nafs to crumble in front of Allah and enable our qalb to become our righteous guide on this journey back to Allah.
Part 1 - Cardiovascular
Part 3 - Healthy Diet