Sunday 27 September 2009

Alcohol: Another week, another set of bad news

At Twincoz Bar, the clinking of beer bottles and the usual chorus of tusayukire wamu (cheers) has been deadened by a mournful mumble. Around the plastic tables of the roadside joint on the outskirts of Kampala, patrons talk of the scourge of sudden blindness followed by death.

In the past month, at least 40 Ugandans have died from drinking adulterated alcohol. In this unregulated east African country, believed to have the world's highest rate of alcohol consumption, the news is terrifying. The authorities appear helpless. Worst of all, no one seems safe.

"Since the death of DJ Ronnie, we know it can happen to anyone," said Twincoz owner Ruben Mugyeni. On 11 September, less than 24 hours after a night out with friends, popular radio presenter Ronnie Sempangi, 36, lost his sight, went into a coma and died from multiple organ failure. The late-night lonely-hearts presenter is thought to have unwittingly drunk lethal methanol. As one of the most-loved personalities in Uganda, thousands attended his funeral at Nanziga near Kampala.

In another research doctors have said that Cigarettes and alcohol will take 10 years off your life.

Doctors have for the first time quantified the effect of the three major killers of middle-aged men: smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Men who smoke and fail to give up, or to control their blood pressure and cholesterol (where necessary) are sacrificing 10 to 15 years of their lives.

Results from the 40-year Whitehall study, landmark research into 19,000 civil servants begun in the late 1960s, shows that men who reached the age of 50 with all three risk factors lived on average to the age of 73, while those without any of the risks lived till 83. When other risks were included, such as diabetes and obesity, they found the least healthy lived until 70 on average, while the most healthy lived till 85.

Ryan and Tracey both suffered brain damage in the womb. Their adoptive mother, writing anonymously here, fears the children of Britain's bingeing generation face a life of emotional trauma

When Martin Narey, chief executive of the children's charity Barnardo's, called for many more children to be taken into care at birth to stop them being damaged beyond repair by inadequate parenting, I thought of Ryan and Tracey (not their real names), two of our three adopted children. Our son has just passed his 21st birthday in prison. He is on remand, awaiting trial for various violent offences. Tracey, his 19-year-old half-sister, is doing better. But if she were not living at home, she would undoubtedly be putting herself in dangerously threatening sexual situations. She is simply not capable of living safely on her own.

Through the arduous and harrowing process of raising them, we have come to realise that children can be "damaged beyond repair" long before they are born. And the cure may require of society much more dramatic policies than merely taking babies away from inadequate parents.

We adopted Ryan as a one-year-old, a frail little chap who had been taken into intensive care because his birth mother had badly neglected him in the first couple of weeks after he was born. He had been fostered for almost all of his short life. The social workers told us that his mum "had learning difficulties" and had been abusing alcohol and illegal drugs.

The posters, on hoardings across France, show a slightly dishevelled media executive in his 50s, on a jetty, a bag in his hand, a Swiss lake behind, staring with vacant, battered, tired eyes into the middle distance.

He is an unlikely hero, but Hervé Chabalier, author of the book One for the Road (Le dernier pour la route), was being lauded by French journalists last week after a film based on his battle with alcoholism came out to critical acclaim. "Truthful, clear and sober," said the Nouvel Observateur weekly magazine. A story that is "profoundly human", said the mass-circulation daily Ouest-France.

But the film, in which Chabalier is played by François Cluzet, has gone beyond simple entertainment, provoking an unprecedented debate on alcoholism, long a taboo subject in France.

Chabalier, 67, founder of the press agency Capa and a renowned foreign correspondent, has not drunk for seven years since the treatment for alcoholism on which the film is based. He said that there was "denial" of the problem in his native land.

"Everywhere you are pushed to drink. It is a very strong social symbol. For having fun, for crying, there is alcohol. It is part of France. But the moment it goes too far, then you are cast out," he told the Observer. "People don't want to talk about it or recognise it."

Though the French are often seen, and see themselves, as a nation of moderate drinkers, certainly compared with Britons, statistics reveal similar levels of alcohol consumption and dependence. According to Inserm, a French public health research centre, five million French people have medical, psychological or social problems linked to alcohol abuse and at least two million are dependent – levels comparable with anywhere in Europe.


The first declaration made by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) concerning this matter was that not only is Khamr (wine or alcohol) prohibited but that the definition of Khamr extends to any substance that intoxicates, in whatever form or under whatever name it may appear. Thus, beer and similar drinks are haram.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was once asked about certain drinks made from honey, corn, or barley by the process of fermenting them until they became alcoholic. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) succinctly replied, "Every intoxicant is Khamr, and every Khamr is haram." Reported by Muslim.)

And `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) declared from the pulpit of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that "Khamr is that which befogs the mind." (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

Islam takes an uncompromising stand in prohibiting intoxicants, regardless of whether the amount is little or much. If an individual is permitted to take but a single step along this road, other steps follow; he starts walking and then running, and does not stop at any stage. That is why the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "Of that which intoxicates in a large amount, a small amount is haram." (Reported by Ahmad Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi.) And again, "If a bucketful intoxicates, a sip of it is haram." (Reported by Ahmad, Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi.)

Abdalrahman Zeitoun: The hero persecuted for his race and religion

Much has been written about Abdalrahman Zeitoun (known to everyone by his last name), the protagonist of Dave Eggers’ new non-fiction book Zeitoun.

The story recounts Zeitoun’s efforts to save his neighbors after Hurricane Katrina pummels New Orleans and subsequent flooding devastates the city. It also describes how the Bush administration’s botched response to America’s largest disaster imperiled the lives and livelihoods of thousands of residents. Most importantly, though, it chronicles the horror Zeitoun and his family face after he is locked up in a Guantanamo-style prison camp, denied contact with the outside world (including his family), and accused of being a terrorist (after saving several neighbor’s lives).

The book has been hailed an “instant American classic” because it masterfully explores the trauma of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath not in the easy-to-pity “I’m a victim of the state and Muslim” way, but in a very subtle and striking one. It was described in The New York Times‘ Sunday Book Review as a “full-fleshed story of a single family … that hits larger targets with more punch than those who have already attacked the thematic and historic giants of this disaster. It’s the stuff of great narrative nonfiction.”

Read the complete article at Muslimah Media Watch and Alt Muslim.

Palestinian satire making waves

Palestinians are enjoying a new take on politics through political satire, an art form that remains rare in the Arab world.

The popular sitcom "Watan ala Watar" (Country on a String), a sketch comedy show that debuted on Palestine TV during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, has become a smash hit.

The show is boldly going where few sitcoms have gone before - poking fun at the people in charge, and on their very own official government station.

Al Jazeera's Nour Odeh reports from the West Bank.

Saturday 26 September 2009

Israel's Arabs right to call for a strike

The announcement that the Israeli Arab leadership is calling for a general strike next month demonstrates the further deterioration of relations between the authorities and the beleaguered Arab citizens of the state. The 1.3 million Arabs living within Israel's borders have never had the most cordial of relationships with the country's rulers, and in the wake of the hard-right coalition's election victory the gulf has grown even wider – culminating in the symbolic protest set for 1 October.

The date chosen is no accident: it marks nine years to the day since 13 Israeli Arab demonstrators were shot dead by Israeli police during a previous general strike – a set of killings that left societal scars that remain unhealed almost a decade later. The government's latest set of proposals – such as the plan to ban the word "nakba" from school textbooks, and to link schools' funding to their success rate in sending students to enlist in the army – have rubbed salt into wounds that continue to fester throughout the Arab community, culminating in the decision to down tools and speak out against their treatment.

The sense of disenfranchisement felt by the Israeli Arab minority is, according to academic Bernard Avishai, a problem too serious to be swept under the carpet by Israel's leaders. Action must be taken, he urged, "to prevent a terrible intifada", fearing a mass explosion of tension that will dwarf anything that's gone on "in Gaza and the West Bank".

"Israeli Arabs live in townships on the edge of Israeli cities; their intellectual elite go to Israeli universities and assimilate, while those not in those circles join drug gangs and jihadist cults." He said that the Israeli Arab community expects to be treated as "full citizens of this country, nothing less" and unless this happens, tensions will spill over onto the streets.

The anti-Arab bias of senior Israeli politicians and military figures is well documented, and causes far more concern to the Israeli Arab community than the equally insidious behaviour of radical settler leaders and their cohorts. Unsavoury as the likes of Baruch Marzel and his merry men may be, their actions can in part be dismissed as the rantings and ravings of extremists living on the fringes of society. However, when similarly racist and discriminatory calls to arms emanate within mainstream Israeli society – from the upper echelons of power all the way down to street level – it is little wonder the Israeli Arab leadership take the situation so seriously.

Last month, foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman took aim at Ahmed Tibi, an Arab member of the Knesset and leader of the Arab nationalist party in Israel. "Our central problem is not the Palestinians," declared Lieberman, "but Ahmed Tibi and his ilk: they are more dangerous than Hamas and [Islamic] Jihad combined." Such incendiary talk is nothing new for Lieberman; in November 2006 he ratcheted up tension by comparing Israeli Arab nationalists with Hitler and his henchmen: "The heads of the Nazi regime, along with their collaborators, were executed. I hope this will be the fate of the collaborators in the Knesset."

His proclamations are, quite rightly, denounced by those who recognise the menace latent in his words. "When the foreign minister says that, ordinary Israelis understand that he is calling for me to be killed as a terrorist," said Tibi in relation to Lieberman's recent outburst. "It is the most dangerous incitement." Politicians lead by example, and Lieberman knows full well the impact the statements he makes can have on the man on the Israeli street.

Israeli Arabs have good reason to believe that they will never be fully accepted by Israeli society, despite assertions to the contrary on the part of more conciliatory and diplomatic members of Israeli officialdom. The proof is not simply the unabashed racism of the likes of Lieberman and Aharonovitch, nor the paucity of state provision of basic services in Arab towns and cities compared with the funding given to their Jewish counterparts.

Complete article and discussion here.

British Civil servant faces sack over anti-Israel rant

A senior Foreign Office civil servant was today facing the sack after being convicted of racially aggravated harassment.

Rowan Laxton, who heads the South Asia desk, launched an expletive-ridden tirade against Israel and Jews as he worked out at a London gym.

A court was told the 48-year-old shouted: "Fucking Israelis, fucking Jews" as he watched a television news report about the death of a Palestinian farmer.

His fellow gym members Gideon Falter and William Lemaine overheard him and complained to gym staff. Falter claimed he also heard Laxton say: "If I had my way, the fucking international community should be sent in and if the Israelis got in the way, they'd be blown off the fucking earth."

Lemaine said: "No-one really expects to hear those words being uttered and when you do, you take a note of it."

The incident, which happened during the conflict in Gaza last January, was described by Laxton's lawyer as a "moment of madness".

"It is a cliche, but it's a cliche that fits in this situation," Julian Knowles told Westminster magistrates court. "It was a moment of madness for Mr Laxton, which is going to have very grave and long-term consequences. The real punishment is yet to come."

Laxton, who earns £3,000 a month after tax, was suspended from his post after the outburst and could now be sacked.

Giving evidence, he said: "I am embarrassed, to be honest with you.

"I offended somebody, I embarrassed the Foreign Office, I've caused anxiety to a number of friends and family and, in particular, I regret using foul language and I regret using imprecise language.

"I regret very much the way in which this case came out in the media and the suggestion that I am antisemitic or racist in any way. I am not."

He said he accepted that his comments suggested everybody in Israel was "somehow responsible" for the farmer's death.

District judge Howard Riddle, announcing his verdict, said that while Laxton's behaviour was "undoubtedly out of character", there was "no doubt" the words were "threatening, abusive or insulting".Laxton was fined £350 and ordered to pay £500 prosecution costs and a £15 victim surcharge. Knowles said his client was "very disappointed" with the outcome and would consider "his next steps with his legal team".

Laxton was suspended from his job earlier this year, and a misconduct hearing is likely to start this week.

Discrimination: A fact of working life for headscarved women

Ill-intentioned employers looking to hire cheap, exploitable workers who have little legal support available to them need not look beyond Turkey's borders to find employees, as the domestic employment conditions for women who wear the headscarf can make them among the most desperate of job seekers.

While the troubles faced by women who choose to wear headscarf at universities and government workplaces are often subject to public attention, fewer people are aware of the problems they encounter in the private sector, even at firms that ostensibly possess Islamic tendencies. The European Union has expressed concerns over the compromising of gender equality in Turkey via employment discrimination against women who wear headscarves, noting that the Turkish government has not done enough to research the extent of this discrimination.

For some, though, the prejudice is all too apparent. Last week, Sunday's Zaman spoke with women who say they have fallen victim to employment discrimination despite their qualifications and experience because they wear the headscarf. They tell stories of adverse working conditions, long hours, little pay and unequal treatment -- all based on the scarf.

“First and foremost, employers know that you can't work for the state; you can't work for most major, big companies. They know this and because they know this, if they're willing to hire you they will work you as hard as they are able,” says Seçil Yılmaz, an İstanbul psychologist who wears a headscarf. “This makes women who wear headscarves and enter or attempt to enter the workforce an easy target. They are put under immense pressure in multiple ways: the normal pressures of trying to make ends meet, the pressure of the job search with a clear disadvantage and the pressure of being treated as a charity case at a workplace instead of a full-fledged employee.”

According to Yılmaz, who runs a private practice, discrimination against women who wear headscarves does not stop with hiring practices. Once successfully finding employment in the private sector, these Muslim women must often make a number of concessions to keep their jobs or else face unemployment, “along with which come the troubles of economic dependence and limited horizons,” she says.

“To begin with, the careers they can enter are limited. You want to be a janitor or work in food preparation? That's fine; you can wear a headscarf and sweep floors in the finest, most secular institutions. Want to work in marketing at an Islamic business? ‘Stop right there,' they'll tell you,” Yılmaz says.

Yılmaz notes that women who wear headscarves and are employed can often be isolated at their workplaces, made to work in places where they will not come into contact with the public as company representatives.

At 25 years of age and with a degree in public relations and three years' experience in marketing, Emine C. has worked in a basement at a printer for the past six months. “The woman who works upstairs in reception has no experience and is a high school graduate. Since she is physically what this company wants as its representation, she is the one who deals with company visitors, incoming customers and explaining our product line. I was the one who created our promotional materials and our marketing approach. She goes to meetings at other firms while I work downstairs near the printing presses where nobody can see me, even though I'm a marketing sub-director; I can only interact with our clientele via telephone. I've complained to my boss about this, and he admits that I'm more skilled than she. But he just says, ‘I'm sorry; we don't want anybody to get the wrong idea about what kind of company we are.' What can I do? I need to make a living,” she says.

In addition, women complain about working extra-long hours under unsatisfactory conditions. “People can take three 10-minute smoke breaks a day at offices, but women who wear headscarves are not allowed to take one or two five-minute breaks to pray. They are forced to deduct this time from the normal tea and lunch breaks,” Yılmaz said. “A number of patients have come to me complaining over the stress and depression that this creates. These women want to work and make a living; they don't want to remain dependent on their fathers, brothers or husbands. They are also not willing to compromise their beliefs and faith, and so they are at the mercy of these employers, who act as if they are doing these women a favor by employing them when what they are really doing is exploitation.”

Perhaps surprisingly, the first firms to discriminate against women who wear headscarves are sometimes those which purportedly have Islamic sentiments. Büşra Ö., 26, explains that she found a job working at the office of a publication known for its conservative Islamic outlook last year after an exhausting and fruitless job hunt at other private sector companies. “After being turned away time and time again because of the headscarf, it was a relief to finally have a stable income, even if it was less than I could earn at other companies if I did not cover,” Büşra said. However, she was soon to learn that it was too good to be true.

“I soon realized that there was a difference between how I was treated and how the other employees were treated. When I went in for the job interview, they explained that they only had so much in terms of financial resources and that for that reason salaries were low and there was no private insurance,” she said. Much to her surprise, one day she overheard a male coworker talking on the phone with the hospital about his workplace-provided insurance policy. “After speaking with the other headscarf-wearing women there I learned that they negotiated separately with each employee about the benefits and salary package and that women at the company, all of whom wore scarves, never got insurance. I went to my boss and demanded that I be taken under the company insurance or at least have my salary increased accordingly. He told me, ‘Look, the deal is done. If you want you can go find another job, but it won't be easy, who is going to hire a headscarved woman in this field?' I was astonished. I left immediately and never went back,” she lamented. She currently works freelance from home but says that the workflow is unstable, especially given the economic crisis.

Zeynep A., 30, says she has had many similar experiences during her work life in Ankara. “It's wholly frustrating and demoralizing to try and find work as a woman who wears the headscarf. You can find a job, sure, but you cannot find a good job that will guarantee your economic independence. Islamic firms are the worst in this regard -- you think that a practicing Muslim would be the last person to take away your rights, but they are the first in line. They will work you for long hours with little pay and no benefits, just so that they can make a profit from your cheap labor. They know you probably cannot find a job elsewhere, so you have to suffer as long as you can,” she says. “I've worked at three Islamic companies and four normal firms, and I will never apply for a job at an Islamic company again. I can't even begin to explain what they put headscarved women through at these places; it turns the stomach. I'm not a slave, and I refuse to be treated without respect.” Zeynep, a certified accountant with a degree in economics, has been unemployed and living with her parents since last fall, when her workplace closed due to the crisis.


Thursday 24 September 2009

Halal food no longer a minority taste

It has always been seen as a minority taste, dominated by specialist companies and independent retailers and largely neglected by gourmet restaurants.

But now the halal food market is seeing a surge of interest from mainstream producers and top chefs who are discovering a new market among young, middle class Muslims.

Sales of organic halal meat are up during the holy month of Ramadan, as Muslims prepare to mark the end of fasting with the festival of Eid al-Fitr this weekend.

Eid, "festivity" in Arabic, is typically celebrated with friends, family and good food, with many Muslims cooking a feast to mark the end of a month of abstinence from food and drink during daylight hours.

Upmarket restaurants have begun offering banquets complete with non-alcoholic cocktails to celebrate the end of abstinence and Harrods has introduced a range of halal gift confectionery to coincide with Eid.

There are an estimated 2.6 million Muslims in Britain, representing just over 3% of the population, but their appetite for meat outstrips that of the general population.

The market for halal fresh meat is estimated at £400m, equivalent to 11% of meat sales, according to Mintel.

Fast food chains such as KFC, McDonald's and Domino's Pizza are all working on trials offering halal meat, but options for upmarket dining have traditionally been more limited. That has now begun to change.

Zaika, a stylish Indian restaurant in Kensington, central London, frequented by well-known names including Formula One racing driver Jenson Button and comedian Ruby Wax, has launched a range of alcohol-free cocktails and has a wide variety of halal dishes on its menu.

Head chef Sanjay Dwivedi said: "It's been really busy during Ramadan and we've had so many young British Muslims coming in, some of them breaking their fast here or coming in later on to eat.

"They're all young, professional and moneyed and all quite trendy – they've got disposable incomes to go out and have really great food, and they know they can get halal meat here."

Awana, a Malaysian restaurant in Chelsea, has been running a Ramadan feast menu all month, catering for the evening meal when the daily fast is broken.

And Benares, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Mayfair headed by chef Atul Kochhar, serves several halal dishes, including pan-fried chicken breast, fennel infused Kentish lamb chops and marinated free range spring chicken.

Bord'Eaux, a French restaurant at the five-star Grosvenor House hotel on Park Lane, also offers halal chicken and lamb dishes.

"We don't advertise our menu as halal because some of our sauces contain wine, but if a customer wanted us to amend a dish and have a halal meal, we would happily accommodate them," said restaurant manager Raoul de Souza.

The trend extends to home cooking too. At Abraham Natural Produce, a mail order halal meat business, orders have increased by 40% during Ramadan as families have been planning ahead for their Eid menus.

Duck, beef and guinea fowl have been particularly popular for customers who want a British-style roast dinner.

Sarah Carr and her husband Ali run the business, which is based in Devon.

She said: "There's a growing awareness about animal welfare and ethical produce among all consumers, including Muslims.

"A lot of our clients tend to be younger Muslim professionals who have got into organic food either because they're foodies who watch Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, or because they feel strongly about the ethical organic movement.

"These guys want to be able to sit down to a nice organic Sunday roast, and get cuts of meat they can't normally get in your average halal butcher."

Abraham Natural Produce has also supplied Fearnley-Whittingstall's restaurant, River Cottage, in Axminster, Devon, with halal organic cuts.

A spokesman for River Cottage said: "We've used their halal goat meat because of the fantastic quality.

"We believe everyone should have access to free range and organic produce and [it's important] that it comes from as local a producer as possible in season."

Harrods' gift confectionery, made by the Chocolate Factory, includes boxes of sugar coated fruit pastilles and raspberry and blackberry fruit-flavoured gums, made using halal gelatin.

Last year, the emporium launched a range of halal Belgian chocolates for Ramadan.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Terror-attack survivor becomes Muslim

After surviving a terrorist attack in Mumbai, India, 10 months ago, when armed men targeted westerners in two five-star hotels, Greenville resident Dennis O'Brien did not turn to hate.

Instead, he sought to understand the root faith the people behind the attacks claimed to practice and discovered it had been twisted by the gunmen.

Eventually, he came to embrace it.

On Sunday, standing before a crowd of thousands, following prayers to mark the end of Ramadan, O'Brien, a Catholic, embraced Islam in a testimony of faith called Shahada, where he publically declared that there was only one God and the Prophet Muhammad is his last messenger and servant.

O'Brien, who heads up the education committee of St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Wilmington, said the move was a surprise, even to him.

But said he was at peace with it.

"Today I feel free of sin," he said.

After several months of studies and asking questions of Muslim friends and associates, "I feel comfort in Islam," he said.

O'Brien said he wanted to express solidarity with Muslims, even though extremists who say they practice the faith "tried to kill me."

Pastor John F. McGinley, of St. Anthony's, said Sunday he had not heard of O'Brien's embrace of Islam.

McGinley said he knows O'Brien is inquisitive and has expressed concern about the young men involved in the Mumbai attacks.

He would not say if the declaration of another faith would affect O'Brien's position at the church, noting he had not spoken to him about Sunday's events.

"I think this is part of his journey of faith and we can work with that," McGinley said.

Indeed, while others called it a conversion, O'Brien said he is not abandoning Christianity or Catholicism. He said he would not disgrace his family by disavowing what he was raised to believe and what they believe in.

He said he sees Sunday's declaration as a continuation or extension of his beliefs, noting how elements of Christianity and Judaism are a part of the Islamic faith.

He said he hopes to continue his work with the Catholic Church, even as he plans to regularly attend weekly Muslim prayers.

Egyptian women to fight harrasment disease

It looks like Egypt is famous for only two things. The Pyramids and Sexual Harrasment of Women. I did post about the problem some months back and now its in news again.

Egypt's Centre for Women's Rights conducted a survey last year which revealed that 93 per cent of Egyptian women have endured harassment of some sort at least once.

For some, what should be a leisurely stroll through the streets of Cairo, Egypt's capital, has become more like a gauntlet run.

Campaigners say the male-dominated society leaves women feeling vulnerable and unprotected by traditional forces like the police.

The problem has become so acute that the government is now considering making the abuse a criminal offence.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera's Amr el-Khaky meets a group of women in Cairo who are taking the fight in their own hands: they are taking lessons in karate.

Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian writer and activist, says that almost every woman she knows has been sexually harassed or groped.

"It is no exaggeration to say this is an epidemic," she says.

"This is much more than sexual frustration.

"This is about power, about humiliation, about the way women have been portrayed, not just in the media but also through religious sermons.

"… The respect that Islam gives to women ... is missing from a lot of religious discourse in Egypt."

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Dont Be Sad: Faith is life itself

Those that are wretched, in the full sense of the word, are those that are bereft of the treasures of faith. They are always in a state of misery and anger.

{But whosoever turns away from My Reminder [i.e. neither believes in this Qur’an nor acts on its orders, etc.] verily for him is a life of hardship...} (Qur’an 20: 124)

The only means of purifying the heart and of removing anxieties and worries from it is to have complete faith in Allah, Lord of all that exists. In fact, there can be no true meaning to life when one has no faith.

The best course of action that a confirmed atheist can take, if he will not believe, is to take his own life. At least by doing so, he will free himself from the darkness and wretchedness in which he lives. How base and mean is a life without faith! How eternally accursed is the existence enveloping those who are outside of the boundaries set down by Allah!

{And We shall turn their hearts and their eyes away [from guidance], as they refused to believe therein for the first time, and We shall leave them in their trespass to wander blindly.}

(Qur’an 6: 110)

Has not the time come when the world should have an unquestioning faith — that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah? After centuries of experience, should not mankind be led to the realization that having faith in a statue is ludicrous, that atheism is absurd, that the Prophets were truthful, and that to Allah alone belongs the dominion of the heavens and earth? All praise is due to Allah and He is upon all things capable.

In proportion to the level of your faith — strong or weak, firm or wavering — will you be happy and at peace.

{Whoever works righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a true believer; verily, to him We will give a good life [in this world with respect, contentment, and lawful provision]. And We shall pay them certainly a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do [i.e. Paradise in the Hereafter].} (Qur’an 16: 97)

The ‘good life’ that is mentioned in this verse refers to having a firm faith in the promise of our Lord and a steady heart that loves Him. People who lead this ‘good life’ will also have calm nerves when afflicted with hardship; they will be satisfied with everything that befalls them, because it was written for them, and because they are pleased with Allah as their Lord, with Islam as their Religion, and with Muhammad as their Prophet and Messenger.

Source: Don't Be Sad - By Aaidh ibn Abdullah al-Qarni

Image Source: BBC

Hadith: Teach Goodness

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "God and His angels, the dwellers of the Heavens and of the Earth, even an ant in its hole and fish (in the depths of the sea) invoke blessings on (a scholar) who teaches people goodness." - Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 70

Monday 21 September 2009

Hadith: Celebrate on Eid days

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) approved of celebrations on religious holidays such as Eid ul-Adha when he said: "(Islam) is spacious (and has room for relaxation), and I have been sent with an easy and straightforward religion."

The Prophet also said: "The days of (Eid) are days of eating and drinking (non-alcoholic drinks) and of remembering God, the Exalted."

Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 2, Number 153

Image Source

Sunday 20 September 2009

Dont Be Sad: Your Recompense Is With Allah

When Allah takes something away from you, He compensates you with something better, but only if you are patient and seek your reward from Him. The noble Prophet said:

'Whoever has his eyesight taken away from him and is patient, he will be compensated for it with Paradise.'

Yet another hadith reads:

'Whoever loses a loved one from the people of this world and then seeks his recompense with his Lord, he will he compensated with Paradise.'

So do not feel excessive sorrow over some misfortune, because the One who decreed it has with Him Paradise: recompense and a great reward. Those that are afflicted in this world and are close to Allah shall be praised in the highest part of heaven:

"Peace be upon you, because you persevered in patience! Excellent indeed is the final home."
[Surah Ar-Ra’d - Ayah – 24.]

We must contemplate the reward one receives for forbearing hardship.

"They are those on whom are the Salawaat [i.e. blessings] [i.e. who are blessed and will be-forgiven] from their Lord, and [they are those who] receive His Mercy. And it is they who are the guided-ones."- [Surah al-Baqarah; 2:157.]

Truly, the life of this world is short and its treasures are few. The Hereafter is better and everlasting, and whosoever is afflicted here shall find his reward there.

And whosoever works hard here shall find ease there. As for those who cling to this world, who are attached to it, and who are in love with it, the hardest thing for them to bear would be to lose the world’s comforts and riches: they desire to enjoy this life alone.

Because of this desire, they don’t react to misfortune as well as others do. What they perceive around them is this life alone: they are blind to its impermanence and insignificance.

O’ afflicted ones, if you are patient you lose nothing; and though you may not perceive it, you are profiting. The person who is afflicted with hardship should reflect upon the outcome in the Hereafter, the outcome for those who are patient.

{So a wall will be put up between them, with a gate therein. Inside it will be mercy, and outside it will be torment.}
- (Qur’an 57: 13)

Source: Don't Be Sad - By Aaidh ibn Abdullah al-Qarni

Image Source: Dailylife

Hadith: Visit Graves as a reminder

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "You should visit graves, because they will remind you of the reality of death."

When asked what to say when passing a graveyard, the Prophet replied: "May God grant mercy to those who have preceded us and to those who are to follow them."

Fiqh-us-Sunnah, 4:83 and 4:83A

Saturday 19 September 2009

`Eid Al-Fitr Sunday in Most Countries

`Eid Al-Fitr, which crowns a month of fasting, prayers and Qur’an recitation, will start on Sunday, September 20, in most Arab and Muslim countries as well as in North America and Europe.

Saudi religious authorities confirmed the sighting of the moon of Shawwal, the tenth month of the Islamic calendar.

"Thus, Saturday is the last day of Ramadan and Sunday will be the first day of `Eid Al-Fitr," the Saudi Judicial Council said in a statement.

Similar announcements were made in the Gulf Cooperation Council members Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Egypt’s Mufti Ali Gomaa also announced the start of the Muslim feast on Sunday.

Authorities in Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Tunsia, Algeria, Yemen and Iran also confirmed Sunday as the first day of `Eid, which marks the end of Ramadan.

Iraq’s Sunnis will also celebrate `Eid Sunday, according to the Sunni Religious Authority.

Lebanon's Shiites and Sunnis will unite in celebrating the three-day `Eid.

In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, the Religious Affairs Ministry announced that Sunday will be the first day of `Eid.

The Muslim feast will also be celebrated Sunday in Malaysia, according to the Keeper of the Rulers' Seal.

The South Korea Muslim Federation said Muslims in the country will celebrate `Eid on Sunday.

In Japan, the Roue`t e Hilal committee also confirmed Sunday as the first day of `Eid el-Fitr, one of the two main Islamic religious festivals together with `Eid Al-Adha.

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) announced on its website that `Eid will be on Sunday.

Thai Muslims will also celebrate `Eid on Sunday, according to the Provincial Islamic Religious Councils.

`Eid for South Africa’s Muslims will be on Sunday, according to Jamiatul Ulama.

Malawi Muslims will also celebrate `Eid on Sunday, according to the Muslim Association of Malawi.

In Australia, the Board of Imams of Victoria announced that the `Eid will be on Sunday.

Sunday in Europe, America

British Muslims will also celebrate the first day of `Eid Al-Fitr on Sunday, announced the Regents Park Mosque and the UK Ruyate Hilal Committee.

Turkey had earlier announced Sunday as the start of `Eid based on astronomical calculations.

The majority of Muslims in Kosovo, Macedonia, Romania, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Albania, Slovenia and Russia had decided to follow Turkey.

The European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) earlier announced that the first day of `Eid will be in Europe on Sunday based on astronomical calculations.

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) also announced that `Eid will fall on Sunday.

During `Eid, families and friends exchange visits to express well wishes and children, wearing new clothes bought especially for `Eid, enjoy going out in parks and open fields.

The festivities and merriment start after special prayers to mark the day.


Libya already celebrated `Eid Al-Fitr on Saturday.

A few countries will celebrate the start of the Muslim feast on Monday.

Oman and Morocco announced that the moon of Shawwal could not be sighted on Saturday.

Thus, the first day of `Eid will be on Monday.

`Eid will also start in Mauritius on Monday, according to the Jummah Mosque Society.

Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Afghanistan will sight the moon of Shawwal on Sunday. Thus, `Eid will fall either on Monday or Tuesday.

Moon sighting have always been a controversial issue among Muslim countries, and even scholars seem at odds over the issue.

While one group of scholars sees that Muslims in other regions and countries are to follow the same moon sighting as long as these countries share one part of the night, another states that Muslims everywhere should abide by the lunar calendar of Saudi Arabia.

A third, however, disputes both views, arguing that the authority in charge of ascertaining the sighting of the moon in a given country announces the sighting of the new moon, then Muslims in the country should all abide by this.

This usually causes confusion among Muslims, particularly in the West, on observing the dawn-to-dusk fasting and celebrating the `Eid Al-Fitr.


Defying ferocious campaigns by right-wing politicians and restrictions on their faith practice, the Muslim minority in Italy’s second largest city are enjoying `Eid Al-Fitr.

“Milan Muslims are enjoying `Eid despite difficulties,” Ali Abu Shwaima, the director of the Islamic Center in Milan, told

“`Eid is a time for joy and pleasure for all, elders and children, regardless of all difficulties and restrictions.”

`Eid Al-Fitr, one of the two main Islamic religious festivals, will fall in Italy on Sunday, September 20.

After special prayers to mark the day, festivities and merriment start.

During `Eid days, families and friends exchange visits to express well wishes and children, wearing new clothes bought especially for `Eid, enjoy going out in parks and open fields.

Milan Muslims complain of official restrictions on performing the `Eid prayers.

The Milan Municipal Council turned down a request by Muslim leaders to hold the prayers at an affiliated sports center to accommodate the large numbers of Muslim worshippers.

The Council argued that the center is booked for a meeting of a political party during `Eid.

Muslim leaders have also sought to hold the prayers at an open playground of a local club.

"But the plans were shelved as weather forecasts tell of a rainy day on the first day of `Eid,” said Abu Shwaima.

Facing all these obstacles, Muslim leaders were forced to organize the `Eid prayers at the Islamic Center in Milan, which is not prepared to accommodate for the flow of worshippers during the prayers.

"We have no choice other than the Islamic Center," Abu Shwaima said.

"We will try to make the best use of every inch to accommodate the flood of worshippers who yearn to perform `Eid prayers."

Italy has a Muslim population of some 1.2 million, including 20,000 reverts, according to unofficial estimates.


Repeated clashes between government troops and Taliban militants are casting a pall over the joy and glamour of `Eid Al-Fitr in Pakistan’s restive valley of Swat.

“`Eid Al-Fitr has always been a real time to celebrate here,” Abdullah Khan, a Swati resident, told

The father of three recalls the traditional celebrations of Swatis of the advent of `Eid, which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

“If there is a heavy gunfire on the 29th day of Ramadan, the people of Swat would know that the `Eid moon was sighted,” he said.

“As soon as the moon was sighted, people would come out of their homes, and greet each other.

“But this time, nothing like that is going to happen.”

The Pakistani army launched a deadly offensive against the Taliban in Swat in April to uproot the militants from the region, killing around 2000 and arresting around 1000.

Though several Taliban commanders, including the local Taliban chief Maulvi Fazlullah, were taken into the army custody, clashes still rage in several areas across the region.

“Our area has been under curfew for last many days,” said Abdullah, a resident of Khuwazakhela, an epicenter of the fighting.

`Eid Al-Fitr is one of the two main Islamic religious festivals, together with `Eid Al-Adha.

After special prayers to mark the day, festivities and merriment start.

During `Eid days, families and friends exchange visits to express well wishes and children, wearing new clothes bought especially for `Eid, enjoy going out in parks and open fields.


The Yemeni government announced Saturday, September 19, a halt of a military offensive against Shiite rebels in northern Yemen to mark `Eid Al-Fitr holiday.

"The government will cease military operations in the north western regions from this point forward," said a government statement cited by Reuters.

"The halt in operations comes into force at the time of publication of this communique" at 2:00 am, it added.


With Muslims worldwide are readying to sight the moon of `Eid Al-Fitr, mosques across Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, are finalizing preparation for `Eid prayers.

The mosque, which is expected to draw 100,000 worshippers, has been furnished for the Muslim festival, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

The `Eid religious sermon and khateeb (the scholar who delivers the sermon) are also ready for the prayers.

Other mosques, including the Sunda Kelapa Grand Mosque in Menteng in Central Jakarta and Pondok Indah Raya Mosque in South Jakarta, also finalized preparations for the prayers.

Dont Be Sad: Enough for you is your home

The words ‘isolation’ and ‘seclusion’ have a special meaning in our religion - to stay away from evil and its perpetrators, and to keep those who are foolish at a distance. As a consequence, you will have an opportunity to reflect, to think and to graze in the meadows of enlightenment.

When you isolate yourself from things that divert you from Allah’s obedience, you are giving yourself a dose of medicine, one that doctors of the heart have found to be a most potent cure. By secluding yourself from evil and idleness, your brain is stimulated into action. The results are increases in faith, repentance, and remembrance of Allah.

However, some gatherings are not only recommended, but are necessary: the congregational prayer, circles of learning, and all gatherings wherein good is spread. As for gatherings wherein frivolity and shallowness prevail, be wary of them. Take flight from such gatherings, weep over your wrongdoing, hold your tongue, and be content with the boundaries of your home. By mixing with others based on foolish motives, you endanger the stability and soundness of your mind. This is because those you are mixing with are experts at wasting time, masters of spreading lies, and are accomplished at spreading both trouble and mischief.

"Had they marched out with you, they would have added to you nothing except disorder, and they would have hurried about you in your midst [spreading corruption] and sowing sedition among you..." - [Surah At-Taubah - Ayah 47.]

My sole wish for you is that you fortify yourself to your purpose and isolate yourself in your room, except to speak well or to do well. When you apply this advice, you will find that your heart has returned to you. So use your time well and save your life from being wasted. Hold your tongue from backbiting, free your heart from anxiety, and preserve your ears from profanity.

Source: Don't Be Sad - By Aaidh ibn Abdullah al-Qarni

Picture Source: Flickr

Halal Search for Muslims

A new Halal search engine for Muslims have been launched recently. The search results are supposed to be halal for Muslims.'s founder, Reza Sardeha, said he got the idea for the site after friends complained that the more popular search engines, including Google and Yahoo!, were flagging up explicit content.

"First of all, we have blocked all sexually explicit content. We are also in talks with Imams to determine what might be considered haram and therefore be blocked," he said.

"Imhalal is not a dictatorial or censorship website, we want people to be able to continue their online search.

"We use a two layer system, first of all the search engine analyses the content fetched by and all websites that contain explicit material will be filtered out. Some websites will still be fetched and there the secondary, more aggressive and progressive filter kicks in and that is when you will see the haram level."

Mr Sardeha hopes his website will become the home page in all Muslim households and, despite only going live on September 1, already has plans to expand the product.

He said: "In one month's time we hope to add Islamic widgets such as prayer time so that you can easily find out when to pray or when you come to the website you will see a quote from the Koran. We are marketing Imhalal as a social home page for Muslim households"

As you can expect there would be lots of people testing this with the aim of defaming any attempt to create something Islamic but time will tell if this will succeed.

Hadith: Guidelines for Life

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, "God has forbidden you to be undutiful to your mothers, to withhold (what you should give), or demand (what you do not deserve), and to bury your daughters alive [a pre-Islamic practice]. And God has disliked that you talk too much about others, ask too many questions and waste your property."

Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Hadith 6

Friday 18 September 2009

Head Covering in Different Religions

Very interesting image showing Modesty in different religions.

Source of image here.

1000 Euros Hijab Tax in Netherlands

Muslim women should have to pay a $1,500 headscarf tax, a right-wing Dutch politician proposed during a parliamentary session.

It's time "to clean up our streets," Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders said.

"This is pollution of public spaces. Let us do something about this symbol of oppression."

The headscarf tax, which Wilders called a "head rags tax" at one point, was intended to "demotivate" people to wear Muslim attire, he said.

The money would go to women's "emancipation programs," he said.

The tax would apply only to Muslim women and not to women of the orthodox Christian or Jewish faiths who wear similar headscarves, Radio Netherlands Worldwide reported.

Wilders was raised Roman Catholic and attributes his politics to "Judeo-Christian values."

He made his proposal during Ramadan, the Islamic month when the faithful believe God gave the Koran to the Prophet Muhammad, a time of fasting, self-reflection and extra prayer to teach patience, modesty and spirituality.

Other parliament members denounced Wilders' proposal. Minister of Housing, Communities and Integration Eberhard van der Laan called it "hysterical," while progressive Democrats 66 leader Alexander Pechtold called it xenophobic and racist, the Dutch news Web site reported.

The Court of Appeal in Amsterdam ordered Wilders' prosecution Jan. 21 for "the incitement to hatred and discrimination."

Britain banned him from entering the country Feb. 12, calling his presence a "threat to one of the fundamental interests of society."

Wilders' 2008 short film "Fitna," which he described as "a call to shake off the creeping tyranny of Islamization," was widely condemned.

Hadith: God Rewards Feeding the Hungry

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) quoted God as saying: "O son of Adam, I asked you for food and you fed Me not." (The person) will respond: "O Lord, how could I feed You when You are the Lord of the worlds?" (God) will then say: "Did you not know that My (hungry servant) asked you for food and you fed him not? Did you not know that had you fed him you would surely have found (the reward for doing so) with Me?"

Hadith Qudsi 18

The Prophet also said: "Feed the hungry, visit the sick and set free the captives."

Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Hadith 552

Thursday 17 September 2009

Hadith: Learn and Teach Quran

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "The best among you are those who learn the Quran and teach it (to others)."

Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Hadith 545

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Dont Be Sad: Convert a lemon into a sweet drink

An intelligent and skillful person transforms losses into profits; whereas, the unskilled person aggravates his own predicament, often making two disasters out of one.

The Prophet (pbuh) was compelled to leave Makkah, but rather than quit his mission, he continued it in Madeenah -- the city that took its place in history with lightning speed.

Imam Abmad ibn Hanbal was severely tortured and flogged, and yet he emerged triumphant from that ordeal, becoming the Imam of the Sunnah. Imam Ibn Taymiyah was put into prison; he later came out an even more accomplished scholar than he was before. Imam As-Sarakhsi was held as a prisoner, kept at the bottom of an unused well; he managed therein to produce twenty volumes on Islamic jurisprudence. Ibn Atheer became crippled, after which he wrote Jam `ey al-Usool and An-Nihayah, two of the most famous books in the Science of Hadith. Imam Ibn al-Jawzi was banished from Baghdad. Then, through his travels, he became proficient in the seven recitations of the Qur'an. Maalik ibn ar-Rayb was on his deathbed when he recited his most famous and beautiful poem, which is appreciated until this day. When Abi Dhu'aib al-Hadhali's children died before him, he eulogized them with a poem that the world listened to and admired.

Therefore, if you are afflicted with a misfortune, look on the bright side. If someone were to hand you a glass full of squeezed lemons, add to it a handful of sugar. And if someone gives you a snake as a gift, keep its precious skin and leave the rest.

And it may be that you dislike a thing that is good for you...

(Qur 'an 2: 216)

Before its violent revolution, France imprisoned two brilliant poets: one an optimist, the other a pessimist. They both squeezed their heads through the bars of their cell windows. The optimist then stared at the stars and laughed, while the pessimist looked at the dirt of a neighboring road and wept. Look at the other side of a tragedy - a circumstance of pure evil does not exist, and in all situations one can find goodness and profit and reward from Allah.

Is not He [better than your gods] Who responds to the distressed one, when he calls Him... (Qur'an 27: 62)

From Whom do the weak and the oppressed seek victory? Who does everyone beseech? He is Allah. None has the right to be worshipped except Him.

Therefore it is most advisable for you and I to invoke Him during times of both hardship and ease, to seek shelter with Him in difficult times, and to plead at His doorstep with tears of repentance; then will His help and relief quickly arrive.

(Is not He [better than your gods] Who responds to the distressed one, when he calls Him... (Qur'an 27: 62)

He saves the one who is drowning, gives victory to the oppressed, guides the misguided, cures the sick, and provides relief to the afflicted.

And when they embark on a ship, they invoke Allah, making their Faith pure for Him only... (Qur 'an 29: 65)

As for the various supplications one makes to remove hardship, I refer you to the books of the Sunnah. In them, you will learn prophetic supplications with which you can call to Allah, supplicate to Him, and seek His aid. If you have found Him, then you have found everything. And if you lose your faith in Him, then you have lost everything. By supplicating to Him you are performing one of the highest forms of worship. If you are persistent and sincere in your supplication, you will achieve freedom from worry and anxiety. All ropes are cut loose save His, and all doors are shut save His. He is near; He hears all and answers those who supplicate to Him.

If you are living through affliction and pain, remember Allah, call out His name, and ask Him for help. Place your forehead on the ground and mention His praises, so that you can obtain true freedom. Raise your hands in supplication, and ask of Him constantly. Cling to His door, have good thoughts about Him, and wait for His help - you will then find true happiness and success.

Hadith: Generosity

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “A generous man is near God, near Paradise, near men, and far from Hell. But a miser is far from God, far from Paradise, far from men, and near Hell. Indeed, an ignorant man who is generous is dearer to God than a worshipper who is miserly.”

Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 580

Tuesday 15 September 2009

European Eid on 20th or 21st?

`Eid Al-Fitr, the feast that marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, will fall on Sunday, September 20, the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) announced citing astronomical calculations.

“According to astronomical calculations, there is hardly any chance of sighting the new moon of Shawwal in the evening of Friday, September 18, in any place in the world,” the ECFR said in a statement mailed to

“Therefore, Saturday, September 19, will be the last day of Ramadan and Sunday, September 20, will be the first day of `Eid."

The holy fasting month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, began in most countries on Saturday, August 22.

`Eid Al-Fitr, which marks the end of fasting, is one of the two main Islamic religious festivals, together with `Eid Al-Adha.

After special prayers to mark the day, festivities and merriment start.

During `Eid days, families and friends exchange visits to express well wishes and children, wearing new clothes bought especially for `Eid, enjoy going out in parks and open fields.

According to Crescent Moon Watch, Europe will only be able to see moon on 20th night hence the Eid will be on 21st.

Lets hope that we celebrate it on the correct day.

Hadith: Be Gentle and Calm

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "Be gentle and calm. . .because God likes gentleness in all affairs."

Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Hadith 404

The Prophet also said: "Anyone who is deprived of gentleness is deprived of good."

Sunan of Abu-Dawood, Hadith 2238

Monday 14 September 2009

Dont Be Sad: Verily, with hardship, there is relief

{Verily, with hardship, there is relief} (Qur’an 94: 6)

Eating follows hunger, drinking follows thirst, sleep comes after restlessness, and health takes the place of sickness. The lost will find their way, the one in difficulty will find relief, and the day will follow the night.

{Perhaps Allah may bring a victory or a decision according to His
Will.} (Qur’an 5: 52)

Inform the night of a coming morning, the light of which will permeate the mountains and valleys. Give to the afflicted tidings of a sudden relief that will reach them with the speed of light or with the blinking of an eye.

If you see that the desert extends for miles and miles, then know that beyond that distance are green meadows with plentiful shade. If you see the rope tighten and tighten, know that it will snap.

Tears are followed by a smile, fear is replaced by comfort, and anxiety is overthrown by serenity. When the fire was set for him, Prophet Ibraheem (Abraham) (may peace be upon him) did not feel its heat because of the help he received from his Lord.

{We [Allah] said: ‘O’ fire! Be you coolness and safety for
Ibraheem!.} (Qur’an 21: 69)

The sea would not drown Prophet Moses (may peace be upon him), because he uttered in a confident, strong, and truthful manner:

{‘Nay, verily! With me is my Lord, He will guide me.}
(Qur’an 26: 62)

The Prophet Muhammad (bpuh) told Abu Bakr in the cave that Allah was with them — then peace and tranquility descended upon them.

Those that are slaves of the moment see only misery and wretchedness. This is because they look only at the wall and door of the room, whereas they should look beyond such barriers as are set before them.

Therefore do not be in despair: it is impossible for things to remain the same. The days and years rotate, the future is unseen, and every day Allah has matters to bring forth. You know it not, but it may be that Allah will afterwards bring some new thing to pass. And verily, with hardship there is relief.

Source: Don't Be Sad - By Aaidh ibn Abdullah al-Qarni