Tuesday, 26 July 2016

15 Important Muslim Women in History

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Nusayba b. Ka‘b al-Anṣārīyya (d. 634). Also known as Umm ‘Ammara, she was a member of the Banū Najjār tribe and one of the earliest converts to Islam in Medina. As a Companion of the Prophet Muhammad, there were many virtues attributed to her. She is most remembered, however, for taking part in the Battle of Uhud (625), in which she carried sword and shield and fought against the Meccans. She shielded the Prophet Muhammad from enemies during the battle and even sustained several lance wounds and arrows as she cast herself in front of him to protect him. It is said that after she sustained her twelfth wound, she fell unconscious and the first question she asked when she awoke (a day later in Medina) was “did the Prophet survive?” a testament to her loyalty and commitment to the new faith.


Thursday, 21 July 2016

Prophet Muhammad stood for humanity in Medina, while IS tries to destroy it

Here is one of my favourite stories about Prophet Muhammad. It is noted in a hadith that he and several of his companions were sitting down along a street in Medina. Suddenly, a companion spotted a funeral procession approaching the group. In respect of the dead human body, Muhammad stood up as the procession crossed in front of him. At that moment, a companion, who was still sitting down, said to the Prophet, "This is a funeral of a Jew. He is not a Muslim." Upon hearing these words, Muhammad became upset and said to the companion, "Is he not a human soul?" The message here is clear: Prophet Muhammad respected human beings irrespective of their religion. He taught mankind that every human soul is important, whether alive or dead. This is Muhammad’s concept of dignity. He defended humanity.
Unfortunately, the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) militants or their sympathisers do not care about humanity. In fact, they are the antithesis of humanity. In the very city where Prophet Muhammad stood in respect for the Jewish funeral procession, several people claiming to be Muslims blew themselves up at the Prophet’s mosque, one of the two holiest sites in Islam. The suicide attack killed four members of the Saudi Arabian security force. In comparing the two events, we can see that Prophet Muhammad honoured people who have passed away, while IS and their sympathisers are the reasons why funeral processions happen in the first place.
Any person in their right mind understands that there is nothing "Islamic" about blowing yourself up and murdering other people. After all, the Quran is unequivocal: "You shall not kill yourselves" (4:29). Suicide is so far outside the boundaries of "normative" Islam that some people – Muslims and non-Muslims alike - have started to seriously question whether IS and their sympathisers are "anti-Islamic", and not simply "un-Islamic", as they are popularly described. There is a difference between these concepts. "Un-Islamic" means that Muslims are acting in a way that opposes the basic principles of Islam. "Anti-Islam" means that the actions of some Muslims are actually a threat to other Muslims and to the very essence of Islam – mercy, compassion, justice and peace.
We can notice Prophet Muhammad‘s love of humanity in how he instructed his followers to respect the People of the Book, as commanded in the Quran. In the year 622CE, the Prophet produced the Medina Charter, also known as the Constitution of Medina, which contained the rights and responsibilities of the Muslims, Jews and other tribal communities in Medina. As the head of state, Muhammad guaranteed all citizens of the city the rights of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. The charter declared that Muslims and Jews were equal members of a new political community. Indeed, even polytheists were granted equal rights. Moreover, Muhammad’s constitution did not treat Jews as a monolithic entity; he recognised and respected their ethnic and cultural diversities. All Jews were granted the rights of freedom of movement, freedom of worship and the freedom of assembly.
Some consider the charter to be the first written constitution in the world. Whether or not that is true is besides the point – the document is a 7th century model for religious pluralism and civic rights. Muhammad envisioned a society where people were united not by race or religion, but rather by citizenship rights.
Jews were not the only religious community that Muhammad peacefully reached out to in Medina. In 631CE, he sent letters inviting various communities of the region to his city. One group, the Najran Christians of modern-day Yemen, travelled 450 miles to meet the Prophet and his companions in Medina. The Christian delegation consisted of about 45 scholars and 15 assistants.
After their diplomatic meeting, the Najran Christians needed to pray. They exited Prophet Muhammad’s mosque and headed towards the street, aiming to pray there. Uncomfortable with the idea that his Christian guests had no place to pray, the Prophet told them that they could use his mosque to worship. The Najrans accepted Muhammad’s offer. An important bridge was made that day between Muslims and Christians.
And it is these kind of interfaith bridges that IS and their sympathisers want to destroy.


Monday, 18 July 2016

Hate Group in Texas Threatens to Kill Muslims – And Nobody Asks Where the Group Was Radicalized

One BAIR member in the video stated, “A lot of us here are using either pig’s blood or bacon grease on our bullets, packing it in the middle so that when you shoot a Muslim, they go straight to hell”. Another member insisted, “Don’t f*ck with white people.”
David Wright, spokesperson for BAIR, said he was “going to start doing something about Muslims… now”. That’s code word for “I’m going to threaten Muslims with violence”.
Clearly, members of BAIR are misinformed and uninformed. One member told AJ+, “the next step in jihad does not involve random, sporadic attacks… They start killing people”.
Actually, no. That’s not true.
I teach the course “Muslims in American Society” at Rice University in Houston, not too far from Irving, where BAIR is based. Our class, composed of Muslims and non-Muslims, takes a careful look at the various dimensions of jihad. The students, I should add, get alone perfectly fine despite coming from largely Christian and Muslim backgrounds.
Jihad has many meanings. It’s often misinterpreted to mean “holy war”, obvious in the case of BAIR, but jihad really means “to struggle” or “to strive”. A jihad might be waking up when your alarm goes off in the morning. A jihad might be putting up with an annoying relative on a holiday.
A jihad might be turning the other cheek when blatantly Islamophobic groups like BAIR openly call for the murder of Muslims.
It’s true there is an offensive or “violent” form of jihad, but it’s for purposes of self-defense.  The Quran, the Islamic holy book, calls on Muslims to “jihad” against the use of violence. The Quran (5:32) states, “if anyone slew a person unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land it would be as if he slew the whole of humanity: and if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole of humanity”. In another Quranic passage (2:190), Muslims are told, “fight in the case of God those who start fighting you, but do not transgress limits (or start the attack); for God loveth not transgressors”.
Full article

Thursday, 14 July 2016

In Pakistan, gruesome ‘honor’ killings bring a new backlash

 

Parveen Rafiq closed her hands around the neck of her youngest daughter, Zeenat, and squeezed and squeezed until the girl was almost dead.

Then, in the tiny apartment where the family lived, she doused the 18-year-old with kerosene and set her on fire.
Neighbors saw the smoke and rushed to the home. Someone inside, apparently one of Rafiq’s daughters-in-law, was screaming, “Help her! Help!”
But the door was bolted from within. Moments later, they heard Rafiq scream from her rooftop: “I have killed my daughter. I have saved my honor. She will never shame me again.”


“We were in love,” Khan said, his voice barely a whisper.
He fumbled through his phone until he found a collection of selfies that Zeenat had put together to the rhythm of their favorite song, an Urdu pop tune called “You Made Me Your Lover.”
She loved taking selfies, loved music and poetry, he said. As the music played, Zeenat in the photos struck different poses, sometimes coy, sometimes playful or teasing, but always smiling, her long black hair falling loosely past her shoulders.
She also taught the neighborhood children the Quran, Islam’s holy book. She could recite the entire book from memory.
Her mother knew about Khan, and she and Zeenat were constantly fighting. Zeenat told him her mother beat her. Over long hours on the phone, Zeenat pleaded with him to marry her so she wouldn’t be forced into an arrangement.
Finally, in May, they sneaked off and registered their marriage at the local courthouse and Zeenat moved into Khan’s home.
They had defied her mother. They were together.
Full article

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

The Plague Within


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By Sh. Hamza Yusuf

According to a good hadith related by Ahmad and al-Tabarani, the Messenger of God, may God’s peace and blessings be upon him, said, “You will never believe until you show mercy to one another.” 
“All of us are merciful, O Messenger of God!” his companions responded.
The Prophet, God’s peace and blessings upon him, explained, “I’m not talking about one of you showing mercy to his friend; I’m talking about universal mercy—mercy towards everyone.” 
For those Muslims and people of other faiths who lost loved ones in the recent tragedies in Baghdad two days ago, in Bangladesh last Friday, in Istanbul the day before that, in Lebanon and Afghanistan last week, and in Yemen and Orlando last month, I am deeply saddened and can only offer my prayers, even as I am painfully aware of my state of utter helplessness at what has befallen our global community. As I write this, I learned about yet another bombing outside our beloved Prophet’s mosque in Medina, as believers were about to break their fast yesterday, unjustly killing four innocent security guards. Fortunately, due to the blessings of the place, the sound of the explosion was thought to be the boom of the cannon used to announce the time has come to break the fast, so the people in the mosque were not frightened nor panicked. The Prophet, God’s peace and blessings upon him, said, “Whoever frightens the people of Medina has the damnation of God, the angels, and all of humanity.” Needless to say, the horror of these atrocities is compounded because they are being carried out—intentionally—in the blessed month of Ramadan.
A plague is upon us, and it has its vectors. Like the brain-eating amoebas that have struck the warm waters of the Southern states in America, a faith-eating plague has been spreading across the global Muslim community. This insidious disease has a source, and that source must be identified, so we can begin to inoculate our communities against it.
New versions of our ancient faith have sprung up and have infected the hearts and minds of countless young people across the globe. Imam Adel Al-Kalbani, who led prayers in the Haram of Mecca for several years, has publicly stated that these youth are the bitter harvest of teachings that have emanated from pulpits throughout the Arabian Peninsula, teachings that have permeated all corners of the world, teachings that focus on hatred, exclusivity, provincialism, and xenophobia. These teachings anathematize any Muslim who does not share their simple-minded, literalist, anti-metaphysical, primitive, and impoverished form of Islam, and they reject the immense body of Islamic scholarship from the luminaries of our tradition. 
Due to a sophisticated network of funding, these teachings have flooded bookstores throughout the Muslim world and even in America, Europe, and Australia. For a case study of what they have spawned, we might look to Kosovo. Our “Islamic” schools are now filled with books published by this sect that lure the impressionable minds of our youth at an age when they are most susceptible to indoctrination. This sect of Islam, however, is not the sole source of our current crisis, and it would be wrong to place all blame on it alone; many of its adherents are peace-loving quietists, who want only to be left alone to practice their faith as they see fit. Their exclusivism is a necessary but not sufficient cause for the xenophobic hatred that leads to such violence. The terroristic Islamists are a hybrid of an exclusivist takfiri version of the above and the political Islamist ideology that has permeated much of the Arab and South Asian world for the last several decades. It is this marriage made in hell that must be understood in order to fully grasp the calamitous situation we find our community in. While the role that Western interventions and misadventures in the region have played in creating this quagmire should not be set aside, diminished, or denied, we should, however, keep in mind that Muslims have been invaded many times in the past yet never reacted like these fanatics. Historically, belligerent enemies often admired the nobility Muslims displayed in their strict adherence to history’s first humane rules of engagement that were laid down by the Prophet himself to insure that mercy was never completely divorced from the callousness of conflict. 
We need to clearly see the pernicious and pervasive nature of this ideological plague and how it is responsible for the chaos and terror spreading even to the city of our Prophet, God’s peace and blessings upon him, in all its inviolability. Its most vulnerable victims are our disaffected youth who often live in desolate circumstances with little hope for their futures. Promises of paradise and easy-out strategies from the weariness of this world have enticed these suicidal youth to express their pathologies in the demonically deceptive causes of “Islamic” radicalism. The pictures they leave behind—showing the supercilious smiles on their faces, even as they hold in their hapless hands their Western-made assault rifles—are testament to the effective brainwashing taking place. 
The damage being wrought is not only within Islam but also to Islam’s good name in the eyes of the world. These now daily occurrences of destructive, hate-filled violence are beginning to drown out the voices of normative Islam, thereby cultivating a real hatred in the hearts of those outside our communities. In the minds of many around the world, Islam, once considered a great world religion, is being reduced to an odious political ideology that threatens global security; that, in turn, is proving disastrous for minority Muslim communities, who now abide in increasingly hostile environments in secular societies. 
What we need to counter this plague are the voices of scholars, as well as grassroots activists, who can begin to identify the real culprits behind this fanatical ideology. What we do not need are more voices that veil the problem with empty, hollow, and vacuous arguments that this militancy has little to do with religion; it has everything to do with religion: misguided, fanatical, ideological, and politicized religion. It is the religion of resentment, envy, powerlessness, and nihilism. It does, however, have nothing to do with the merciful teachings of our Prophet, God’s peace and blessings upon him. Unchecked, we will see this plague foment more such violence, until one day, God forbid, these hateful and vile adherents obtain a nuclear device, the use of which has already been sanctioned by their “scholars,” including one currently imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. If such a scenario unfolds, it is highly probable that the full wrath of Western powers will be unleashed upon a helpless Muslim world that would make even the horrendous Mongol invasions of the 13th century look like a stroll in the park.
Invariably, some will remark that a fear of Western retaliation is a sign of cowardice. For those zealots, I would recommend turning back to the Qur’an, specifically to reflect on the undeniably brave Messenger Moses, peace be upon him, who unintentionally killed an Egyptian after striking him with his powerful blow, only because he was considered an enemy, and then asked God’s forgiveness and “fled vigilantly out of fear” (28:21). This is a cautionary tale, and it behooves all of us to reflect upon it as a lesson of what not to do when oppressed, especially when we are without political authority or the means to redress our grievances. Imam al-Sahrwardi stated, “To flee from calamities is the Sunnah of Prophets.” It is best not to let our baser self, our lust for revenge, get the better of us.
We would do well to acknowledge that much of what is happening in the Muslim world and to Muslim communities in the West is from what our own hands have wrought. Muslims have been in the West for a long time and have done little to educate people here about our faith; too many of us have been occupied in our wordly affairs, while some of our mosques and schools have been breeding grounds for an ideological Islamism rather than Islam. The Qur’an clearly instructs us that when faced with calamities, we ought to look first at what we may have done to bring them upon us. Introspection is a Qur’anic injunction. Until we come to terms with this Qur’anic truth, we will remain mired in the mirage of denial, always pointing fingers in every direction but at ourselves. “Verily, God does not change the conditions of a people until they change themselves” (Qur’an, 13:11).
As Ramadan comes to a close, let us pray for the oppressed and the guidance of the oppressors, for those who have been killed, and for those who lost their loved ones, and most of all, let us heed our Prophet’s call and want mercy for everyone