Saturday, 22 April 2017

Break the Cycle - Domestic Violence

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Female Scholars in Islam - Shaykh Mohammed Akram Nadwi

My Sheikh being all awesome as always! We need to learn about our mothers and sisters, they are our first teachers. Much respect!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

You have the potential for greatness: Ibn Ali Miller

I love this brother he is everything I want to be, what every Muslim man should be. Much love and respect to brother Steve Harvey too, big fan of his :)

The twisting of Shariah

Shariah is a word many are terrified of these days. Muslims will be asked do you adhere to Shariah? Are you committed to implementing it? Are you trying to replace our (of course much more civilized laws) with it?

I am married according to Shariah, I eat meat slaughtered by its rules and have a bank account organized on its economical principles. I assure you that is nothing to panic about!

Shariah is simply laws that have been enacted on Islamic principles, they are not uniform, they should be pragmatic and above all justice should be the goal. However miscarriages of justice occur in all  legal systems, human beings are capable of making errors and justice is the casualty. This has occurred in Shariah too. In my homeland of India, triple talaq is upheld as part of Shariah, despite being banned in other Muslim countries. Pakistan unfortunately upholds blasphemy laws which many have argued contradict Shariah. Saudi Arabia refuses to let women drive citing all sorts of pseudo-religious/cultural reasons, none of which the vast majority of Muslims agree with.

Those in power will often twist or misinterpret Islam and its principles for their own benefit/ to suit their agenda. Indeed we must be wary of this and call it out every time. This is an ongoing struggle.

Being a history buff I enjoyed watching some clips/episodes of Turkish historical drama Magnificent Century. One of the most disturbing practices of the Ottomans was fraticide. (I certainly condemn the imperialism, incessant warring and entire concept of the Harem too) However it was quite sad to realize that Fatawa were given by the Ulema of Islam to Sultans to murder of their own brothers/half-brothers. Many Sheikhs argued it was better that a few princes were executed, rather than entire wars be fought between brothers for succession (for example the War of the Roses in Europe). One Sultan murdered nineteen brothers! Another killed his innocent and very capable son in a 'preemptive strike'!

Why the Ulema couldn't stress cooperation between brothers, the need to serve the wider Ummah not the Dynasty, the sanctity of human life, the great sin that is fratricide is a great shame. However it has to be noted many Ulema also opposed this barbaric practice and gave Fatawa against it. For details please read this excellent article.

As enacted in the clip above this particular Sheikh certainly misrepresented the Quran to give Sultan rather bogus reasoning to murder his own friend whom he had sworn to protect. (This may not be entirely historically accurate I am simply using as a possible example).  So Shariah is certainly not safe from being twisted to serve the needs of those in power. Indeed it has been argued quite robustly that Daesh are doing exactly that.

The interpretation of Shariah is dependent on the conscience of the people/scholars/jurists of Islam. Above all Shariah is a means to an end which is paramount. The end that is justice and compassion. That is what we must aspire to.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

What this teen wants you to know about the hijab after her dad's text went viral.

This father-daughter relationship is #goals :)

Lamyaa, a 17-year-old from Pennsylvania, has gotten used to harassment from strangers online.

Much of the time, their target is her Muslim faith.
"Personally, being an Arab Muslim woman in America, these sort of hateful messages aren't uncommon," she explains.

On April 14, 2017, Lamyaa tweeted a revolting message she'd received from a stranger.

It read: "Stop defending Islam Bit*h shut up you couldn't take that scarf off or your dad would beat your as*."
By "scarf," of course, the person was alluding to Lamyaa's hijab — a head covering worn by some Muslim women as an expression of their faith.

Lamyaa decided to text her dad and ask him what he'd do if she did, in fact, decide not to wear her hijab — and his response made her tweet go viral.

She posted their conversation:
Lamyaa: Baba, I want to tell you something.
Lamyaa's father: Talk to me [asks her if she's OK in Arabic]
Lamyaa: Yeah I'm okay. I was thinking. I want to take my hijab off.
Lamyaa's father: Sweetheart that's not my decision to make. That's no man's decision to make. If it's what you feel like you want to do, go ahead. I'll support you no matter what. Is everything okay? Did something happen?
Since Lamyaa posted the offensive message along with her conversation with her father, her tweet has been liked and retweeted hundreds of thousands of times.
"I have gotten many heartwarming messages of people showing me support, but also of people wanting to learn more about Islam or wanting to be a part of it," she explains. "I felt like I could help in a way, and it was very humbling."

Lamyaa is using the attention to clear up harmful stereotypes about Islam, Muslim women — andMuslim men — and the hijab.

"People believe that Islam is misogynistic, hateful, or violent, and I think that stems from their inability to differentiate culture and religion," she explains. "Islam is a religion and, like all religions, it is what you bring to it."
For instance, some women are forced to wear a hijab, and that's a "horrible" form of oppression, the teen later pointed out on Twitter. But many Muslim women, like Lamyaa, wear one because they choose to — for a wide variety of empowering and personal reasons.
"I wear my hijab because it is sacred to me," Lamyaa says. "It displays my connection to my faith and God. When I have the hijab on, I act kinder and I am more aware of what I say and do. This is because not only am I representing myself, but I am representing a faith much bigger than me."

"If I had one thing to say to people who have misconceptions about Islam, it would be: Speak to a Muslim," Lamyaa says.

"Have a conversation with a Muslim. Many of us are willing to answer any questions and clear up any misconceptions. Muslims are not some separate group. We are a part of America. We are people."

Do not speak for God!

Image result for allah mercy

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told the story of two men, one of whom would commit sin and the other would strive to do his best in the world. When the man who exerted himself in worship continued to see the other in sin, he would say: "Refrain from (sinning)." The sinner replied: "Leave me alone with my Lord. Have you been sent as a watchman over me?"

The man who tried to do his best then said: "I swear by God, God will not forgive you, nor will He admit you to Paradise." When they both died and came before God, He told the man who had striven hard in worship: "Did you have knowledge about Me or had you power over that which I had in My hand?" God then said to the man who sinned: "Go and enter Paradise by My mercy." Sunan of Abu-Dawood

Thursday, 13 April 2017

FGM campaigner Fahma Mohamed to receive honorary doctorate

 Fahma Mohamed at the ‘Girl Summit 2014’.
The teenager who led the Guardian-backed campaign to end female genital mutilation (FGM) has been awarded a doctorate for her campaigning work.
Fahma Mohamed, 19, who will be a doctor of law, is one of the youngest people in the UK to receive the honorary degree, which will be presented by Bristol University on Friday.
Mohamed said she was ecstatic at being awarded the doctorate. “This has been seven years of hard work, we had so many obstacles to overcome and struggles at the beginning because it was so taboo,” she said. “It was fighting against something people were in denial about, it was hard for people to understand our point of view and for people in the community to be able to come out and say I am against this, too. 
“But now people have completely changed. Of course there are still people out there who might not agree. But there are many people who have said that our work has broken the cycle of abuse in their family. I am so glad and thankful to everyone I have met on this journey, [who] has been willing to listen to me and others doing this work and given me the opportunity to help young girls out there.”
Mohamed was 14 when, along with the Bristol-based charity Integrate, she started the campaign to end the practice of FGM in Britain.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Islam, in my own image

Image result for islam

A close friend was mortified that I might have been asked — much less have accepted — to write about life as a Third-Culture Kid (“TCK”). “You’re a white male who lived exclusively in the United States until the age of 27!” he laughed. Guilty as charged, so why contribute here?

I may never win my friend over to my TCK bona fides, but I believe my life may in fact be characterized by some of the tensions inherent in the TCK experience — the precarious (hopeless?) balancing of competing commitments, traditions and values, for example, has dominated my life about the last nine years. I assumed somewhat, when I converted to Islam as a college sophomore, that I might live out the rest of my days in a state of blissful, spiritual self-confidence and inner tranquility. Not quite! I hadn’t the faintest sense of what I was getting myself into.

I grew up with Buddhist parents, went to Jewish preschool, occasionally observed Shabbat, and then, in high school, I nearly converted to Catholicism during a summer of going to Mass every single morning. I think it’s pretty clear there was a significant spiritual void that I was trying to fill.

In college, around the same age my hippie father had apparently first dabbled in Zen mysticism, I attended on a whim a lecture on Jihad and Just War Theory. What was said in that discussion I couldn’t tell you, though it certainly kindled anew my spiritual curiosity. I became quite enamored by this Muhammad fellow, so that summer I drove regularly the few hours across state lines to and from the nearest mosque. (Note, there was actually a mosque in my hometown I would later learn... their website just wasn’t up and running.) I felt at peace in the ritual prayer, addressing directly the Creator of the Cosmos in a way I had never known. By summer’s end, I converted to many a warm welcome, with offers of unconditional existential support and/or South Asian food, depending on the offeror.

I considered my life’s quest for ultimate meaning to have wrapped up by the ripe age of 20. I just had to adjust my sleep schedule — to be up for the 4:30 morning prayer — to donate 2.5 percent of my non-existent college student income, abstain from things like usurious loansharking and premarital sex, and travel to Saudi Arabia at least once if I ever did find a job.

This spiritual high lasted a solid month. At this point, I started contemplating the fate of my parents (and probably lightly evangelized them), reading about the problem of evil and suffering, and the incompatibility of human free will and divine determinism. Oh, and perhaps I had to decide what kind of Muslim I was (i.e., Sunni, Shi`i, or neither). These were questions which I was fantastically unequipped to answer.

I switched my major to religious studies, and I spent hours, days even, in the library. This is technically true; on one occasion, I refused to put down the text I was reading, and I got locked inside overnight. I’m confident that to this day, if blindfolded, I could still find my way to the Islamic studies section of Davis Library in Chapel Hill.

One strategy I adopted for answering my questions was to turn to the Qur’an. This was where things really deteriorated.

Prior to converting, I’d read mostly about Muhammad’s life; my firsthand knowledge of the Qur’an itself was limited to a few passages relevant to the ritual prayer. I was fairly confident I knew what “All-Merciful” and “All-Compassionate” looked like, and how these descriptions of God would play out in the pages of scripture. Yet, when I searched the pages of the Qur’an for this being, He’d apparently stepped out for tea. The more I read, the more unsettled, and at times revolted, I became. Scarcely would a page go by without some reference to hapless polytheists receiving merciless, grossly excessive torture (forever) in the afterlife. And the text’s speaker seems quite self-satisfied about doing so. There is no indication, either, that this fate is confined to “only the evil polytheists” — without proper faith, even a gentle, virtuous atheist or polytheist merits this agony of perdition:

“Garments of fire will be tailored for those who disbelieve; scalding water will be poured onto their heads, melting their insides as well as their skin; there will be iron crooks to restrain them; whenever, in their anguish, they try to escape, they will be pushed back in and told, ‘Taste the suffering of the Fire.’” (Qur’an, 22:19-22)

This is not “just punishment” for a crime; this is the consequence of a mere mistake of ontology (a philosophical belief about what exists). An eternity of physical agony is what the All-Merciful and All-Compassionate has freely decided should await these desperate souls.

I was still attracted to Muhammad, and I thought I must be missing something, but nonetheless, the Qur'an was not a text that I would have wanted my friends and family to read and think I agreed with. It did little good to consider these morally and emotionally painful passages “excusable” or “forgivable” based on the time period. This text was — by definition — supposed to be the greatest conceivable sum of words that could ever be put together, more meaningful and spiritually powerful than any work of poetry or literature past, present or future.

At precisely the same time, I was discovering the works of masters of logic and rational thought — Socrates and Plato, Spinoza and Mill, Rawls and Grayling — philosophers whose arguments, elegantly constructed and intellectually impactful, were, to me, objects of aesthetic beauty. They didn’t say, “You had better agree with this set of ideas or else you ought to be tortured.” The implicit claim of philosophy is that any idea, argument or perspective only has authority if it can be proven to be true (much like science, something of a popular spinoff of classical empiricism, I am told).

So then, where to go from here? Atheism? Not quite. My belief in God persists (most of the time) with a vision of a morally perfect, metaphysically necessary being; I just don’t think the Qur’anic description of God works in any straightforward way. So then, leave Islam for a rival religion? I’m quite certain this same tension exists between contemporary moral philosophy and any of the descriptions of God that developed in antiquity.

Since those early years as a Muslim, I’ve done the only thing I know how to do: fill my apartment with books, converse with friends and hope to God that, somehow, my affection for Muhammad and his family can be reconciled with a non-negotiable commitment to rationalism. I am also blessed to teach classical and modern Islamic political philosophy, and thus I get paid (minimally) to continue to reflect on some of these issues. (Some readers may balk at the notion — reflected self-consciously in the title of this piece — that I have just distorted "true Islam" into something I am comfortable believing in. If there is, however, any uncontested truth in Islamic studies, it is that there is in fact no "Islam out there" (reified or hypostatized, as they say); we all create our own, unique Islamic metaphysics. There is simply no vision or idea of Islam that is unshaped, unqualified and unimpacted by the believer in whom the idea subsists.)

Every once in a while, moreover, I am delighted to study a figure in Islamic history who doesn’t fit with traditional expectations. Ibn Tufayl, for instance, wrote the philosophical novel “Hayy ibn Yaqzan,” wherein the protagonist discovers all Absolute Truths with his reason, and without any aid from divine revelation, thank-you-very-much. Or even Ibn Sina, who could enjoy a good glass of wine and saw nothing contrary to the divine will about it.
I’m sure some restlessness in my psychology will never permit me to rest with any final conclusions about the meaning, relevance or authority of the Qur’an in my life. I will probably never understand exactly its relationship to the divine will. The belief that God chose very specific words in Arabic and narrated them (through Gabriel) to Muhammad is a belief that has gone for me and I am quite sure will never return. For some time, I have inclined optimistically toward a metaphor offered by Sa`id Nashid:

“The Qur’an is not the speech of God, just as the loaf of bread is not the work of the farmer. God produced the raw material, which was inspiration, just as the farmer produces the raw material, which is wheat. But it is the baker who turns the wheat or flour into bread according to his own unique way, artistic expertise, and creative ability. Thus it is the Prophet who was responsible for interpreting the inspiration and turning it into actual phrases and words [of the Qur’an] according to his own unique view.”

This is a vision of the nature of the text that at once begins to resolve some of its more uncomfortable passages and simultaneously makes its spiritual flourishes all the more sublime — emerging in some sense, if this vision is true, in the person of Muhammad, in the windswept desert of the Hijaz, in a humble corner of late antiquity. I look to the Qur’an not as the be-all and end-all of my thinking about God, but rather as one waypoint, and I try to hold fast to the intellective tools of history’s greatest philosophers as the brightest lanterns for the conceptual paths ahead.

John Miller teaches Islamic political thought and political theory in Connecticut. He has degrees in law and Islamic studies from the University of North Carolina. He lives with his wife and their cat, Tiramisu.