Monday, March 31, 2014

The Sermon On The Mount

When Jesus saw the crowds approaching, he climbed the mountain; after he sat down, his Disciples came to him.
He opened his mouth and began to teach them, saying,

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. 
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted. 
Blessed are the gentle,
for they shall inherit the Earth. 
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied. 
Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall receive mercy. 
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God. 
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called the children of God. 
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. 
Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you,
and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in Heaven is great;
for in the same way they persecuted the Prophets who were before you. 
You are the salt of the earth;
but if the salt has become tasteless,
how can it be made salty again?
It is no longer good for anything,
except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. 
You are the light of the world.
A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;
nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket,
but on the lamp-stand, and it gives light
to all who are in the house. 
Let your light shine before men
in such a way that they may see your good works,
And glorify your Father Who is in Heaven. 

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law
or the Prophets;
I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.
For truly I say to you,
until the Heavens and the Earth pass away,
not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass
from the Law until all is accomplished. 
Whoever then annuls
one of the least of these Commandments,
and teaches others to do the same,
shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven;
but whoever keeps and teaches them,
he shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. 
For I say to you that
unless your righteousness surpasses that
of the Scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 
You have heard that the ancients were told,
‘Thou shall not commit murder’
And ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother
shall be guilty before the court;
And whoever utters hurtful words upon his brother
shall be guilty before the court,
guilty enough to be tossed unto the Fires of Hell.
Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the Altar,
and there remember that your brother has something against you,
leave your offering there before the Altar and go;
First be reconciled to your brother,
and then come and present your offering.
Make friends quickly with your opponent at law
while you are with him on the way,
so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge,
and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.
Truly I say to you,
you will not come out of there
until you have paid up the last cent. 
You have heard that it was said,
‘Thou shall not commit adultery’;
But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman
with lust for her
has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
If your right eye makes you stumble,
tear it out and throw it from you;
For it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body,
than for your whole body to be thrown into Hell.
If your right hand makes you stumble,
cut it off and throw it from you;
For it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body,
than for your whole body to go into Hell.
It was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away,
let him give her a certificate of divorce’;
But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife,
except for the reason of infidelity, commits adultery;
And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. 
Again, you have heard that the ancients were told,
‘Thou shall not make false vows,
but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’
But I say to you, make no oath at all,
Either by Heaven, for it is the Throne of God,
Or by the Earth, for it is the Footstool of His Feet,
Or by Jerusalem, for it is the City of the Great King.
Nor shall you make an oath by your head,
for you cannot make one hair white or black.
But let your statement be, ‘Yes’ or ‘No’;
Anything beyond these is of evil. 
You have heard that it was said,
‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’
But I say to you, do not resist an evil person;
But whoever slaps you on your right cheek,
turn the other to him also.
If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt,
let him have your coat also.
Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.
Give to him who asks of you,
And do not turn away from him
who wants to borrow from you. 
You have heard that it was said,
‘Thou shall love your neighbor
and hate your enemy.’
But I say to you, love your enemies
And pray for those who persecute you,
so that you may be sons of your Father
Who is in Heaven;
For He causes His sun to rise
on the evil and the good,
And sends rain
on the righteous and the unrighteous.
If you love those who love you,
what reward do you have?
Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
If you greet only your brothers,
what more are you doing than others?
Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
Therefore you are to be perfect,
as your Heavenly Father is Perfect. 

Beware of practicing your righteousness
before men to be noticed by them;
Otherwise you have no reward
with your Father Who is in Heaven.
So when you give to the poor,
do not sound a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues
and in the streets,
so that they may be honored by men.
Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
But when you give to the poor,
do not let your left hand know
what your right hand is doing,
so that your giving will be in secret;
And your Father Who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 
When you pray, do not to be like the hypocrites;
For they love to stand
and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners
so that they may be seen by men.
Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
But you, when you pray, go into your inner room,
close your door and pray to your Father in secret,
And your Father Who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 
And when you are praying,
do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do,
for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.
So do not be like them;
For your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father Who is in Heaven,
Hallowed be Your Name.
Your Kingdom come.
Your Will be done,
On Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory Eternal.
If you forgive others for their transgressions,
your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others,
then your Father will not forgive your sins. 
Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do,
for they neglect their appearance so that
they will be noticed by men when they are fasting.
Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face
so that your fasting will not be noticed by men,
but by your Father Who sees in secret;
And your Father Who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on Earth,
where moth and rust destroy,
and where thieves break in and steal.
But store up for yourselves Treasures in Heaven,
where neither moth nor rust destroys,
and where thieves do not break in or steal;
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be. 
The eye is the lamp of the body;
So then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.
But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.
If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 
No-one can serve two masters;
For either he will hate the one and love the other,
Or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and wealth. 
I say to you, do not be worried about your life,
as to what you will eat or what you will drink;
nor for your body, as to what you will put on.
Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 
Look at the birds of the air:
that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns,
and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not worth much more than they?
And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 
Why are you worried about clothing?
Observe how the lilies of the field grow;
they do not toil nor do they spin,
yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory
clothed himself like one of these.
But if God so clothes the grass of the field,
which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace,
will He not much more clothe you? 
You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying,
‘What will we eat?’
or ‘What will we drink?’
or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’
For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things
and your Heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
Seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness,
and all these things will be added to you. 
Do not worry about tomorrow;
for tomorrow will care for itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Do not judge so that you will not be judged.
For in the way you judge, you will be judged;
and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 
Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye,
but do not notice the log that is in your own?
Or how can you say to your brother,
‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’
and behold, the log is in your own? 
You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye,
and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s. 

Do not give what is holy to dogs,
and do not throw your pearls before swine,
or they will trample them under their feet,
and turn and tear you to pieces. 

Ask, and you shall receive;
seek, and you shall find;
knock, and it will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives,
and he who seeks finds,
and to him who knocks it will be opened. 
What man is there among you who,
when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?
Or if he asks for a fish, he will give him a snake?
If you then, being inclined to sin,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your Father
Who is in Heaven give what is good to those who ask Him?!

In everything, treat people the same way
you want them to treat you,
for this is the Law and the Way of the Prophets. 
Enter through the Narrow Gate;
for the Gate is wide and the way is broad
that leads to Destruction,
and there are many who enter through it,
but the Gate is small
and the way is narrow that leads to Life,
and there are few who find it.

Beware of false prophets
who come to you in sheep’s clothing
but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
You will know them by their fruits. 
Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes
nor figs from thistles, are they?
So every good tree bears good fruit,
but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 
A good tree cannot produce bad fruit,
nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit
is cut down and thrown into the fire.
So then, you will know them by their fruits. 

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of Heaven,
but he who does the Will of My Father
Who is in Heaven
shall enter. 
Many will say to Me on that Day,
‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name,
and in your name cast out demons,
and in your name perform many miracles?’
And then I will declare to them,
‘I never knew you;
depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them
may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.
And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew
and slammed against that house, and yet it did not fall
for it had been founded on the rock. 
Everyone who hears these words of mine
and does not act on them,
will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.
The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew
and slammed against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall.

When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at his teaching; for he was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes of the law.

— Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 5 to 7

Friday, March 28, 2014

Let Them Have Paradise

My eyes exist to see You.
My hands exist to reach You.
Today I set my life on Your Path
Tomorrow I will find You.

Today I set my life on Your Path,
so tomorrow You may know my worth
Don't give me Paradise as reward for my faith
I have no desire to go.

The place you call Paradise
for which every good believer strives
is but a house of beautiful women to the wise
I have no desire to embrace them.

You gave me a son and a daughter
who've brought me every pleasure;
Even for them I have no more desire
All my desire is for You.

Give all that to the orthodox believers
They are the ones who want Your favors.
I have no desire for home or possessions either
I have no desire but for You.

Yunus misses You terribly.
Show him that You miss him too.
If Your Way is not to torture,
show some mercy so he can reach You.

― Yunus Emre

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

God, Islam and the Age of Skepticism

“I have faith that God will show you the answer. But you have to understand that sometimes it takes a while to be able to recognize what God wants you to do. That's how it often is. God's voice is usually nothing more than a whisper, and you have to listen very carefully to hear it. But other times, in those rarest of moments, the answer is obvious and rings as loud as a church bell.”
~ Nicholas Sparks

My work will address several, if not the most important questions in theology and philosophy today. I will respond to most of the challenges by the age of skepticism and science, and in doing so I will provide a balanced approach representing not only the theistic/atheistic perspectives, but also a much needed Islamic viewpoint that has largely been ignored or misunderstood. In this article I will be attempting the answer the following questions:
  • Who is God?
  • Where is God?
  • Who speaks for God?
  • If God exists then why is there evil in the world?
  • Is God compatible with science and reason?

In order to talk about God first we have to know Who is God and how does God define Himself.
God says in the 112th Chapter of the Holy Quran:
In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful
Say: He is Allah, the One!
Allah, the Eternal!
He begets not nor was begotten.
And there is none comparable unto Him.
Note that "Allah" is not the name of a God for Muslims but the word "Allah," an amalgamation of the word "ilah" meaning "god" and the prefix "al" meaning "the," in the Arabic language itself means "The One God." So Allah is the God of all humanity and not only Muslims. Even the Arab monotheistic religions use the word Allah in their scriptures such as the Arabic Bible, so it is not something that only Muslims say to refer to God but all Arabic-speaking monotheists of the region.

From here we outline the basis of "Tawheed," meaning monotheism: that there is Only One God, there was nothing before Him and there will be nothing after Him, He is Everlasting. And this, so far, is the best explanation for God, because what makes God a God is that He is Unique and that there is nothing that can be compared to Him.

Now I will give a brief description about God and where is God. Is God in the sky? There is a huge misconception about some monotheistic religions that they believe God is somewhere up in the sky. As a Muslim, I believe that this statement is totally absurd. Why so? Because God has no place. If God had a place then He is everywhere without being anywhere. Confusing? Let me use an anecdote from the life of Imam Murtaza 'Ali ibn Abi Talib to elucidate:
An Arab atheist once came to Imam 'Ali and asked him 
"Oh 'Ali, tell me where and what is your God?" 
Humbly, he replied, "He made the 'where' a 'where' so He is nowhere, and He made the 'what' a 'what' so He is no what."
Basically, what Imam 'Ali is saying is that God is beyond time and space. He cannot be contained somewhere, because He is everywhere. The dimensions we live in do not contain Him.

In another occasion Imam Dhi`lib al-Yamani, a companion of Imam 'Ali, asked him whether he had seen God.
He replied, "Do I worship One Whom I have not seen?"
Then, Imam Dhi`lib inquired, "How have you seen Him?"
Imam 'Ali replied, "Eyes do not see Him face to face, but hearts perceive Him through the realities of belief. He is near to things but not physically contiguous. He is far from them but not physically separate. He is a speaker, but not with reflection. He intends, but not with preparation. He molds, but not with the assistance of limbs. He is subtle but cannot be attributed with being concealed. He is great but cannot be attributed with haughtiness. He sees but cannot be attributed with the sense of sight. He is merciful but cannot be attributed with weakness of heart. Faces feel low before His greatness and hearts tremble out of fear for Him."

Positive statements about God can only come from God Himself, which are communicated to mankind primarily through Divine Scriptures and Prophets. The Message started developing as man's ability to understand became more advanced until the Last Message was delivered by the one Muslims believe was the Final Seal of all Prophets, Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Abdul Mutalib ibn Hashim of Banu Quraysh. He was the one to spread the Last Message which Muslims refer to as the Holy Quran.

The Quran contains all the teachings of the previous prophets before Muhammad. It was like the latest version or an update of all the prior messages. Everything in this Message is compatible with human nature. Now remember this, a Message from God should be completely perfect with no flaws whatsoever. Why? Because God is Perfect and therefore His Words and His Message should also be Perfect. So in order for the Message to be sent to humanity, the Prophet that spreads the Message should also be perfect. Just like water. Try to mix dirty water with clean water. Will it stay clean? Of course not. And this is what Muslims believe. That all Prophets are Completely Infallible.

So, if God exists then why is there evil in the world? I will start this argument with the recitation of Epicurus' formulation of the problem of evil:
  • Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent.
  • Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent.
  • Is God both able and willing? Then why is there evil?
  • Is He neither able nor willing? Then why call Him God?

This is a valid argument; the question is, is it sound? With the same argument I will give another example: My sister wants my dad to buy her a toy, but he is refusing because she’s not getting good grades in school. However, before all of this happened my dad warned my sister that if she does not get a good grade he will not get her a toy. Is my dad able to get her a toy? Yes, he is. Then why wouldn’t he? It is because he wants to teach her a lesson for her actions. Everyone is responsible for their own mistakes. You are warned not to do something because there will be consequences. God did not create evil. We human beings did,
“Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by what the hands of people have done”
[al-Quran 30:41]
How did we create it? Because of our free will. Even if there is evil in this world, that is not a reason for someone to disbelieve. The people who are indulging in evil are not going to get away with it. Everyone will be judged fairly in the end not only by our actions but also by our intentions. That is the Abrahamic concept of Judgment Day.
Zoroastrians and even the ancient Egyptians too believed in it.

Is God compatible with science and reason? Reason refers to the uniquely human capacity for logical, rational and analytic thought. Historically, however, the intellectual movement of rationalism considered reason to be more than just a feature of human nature, and instead, considered it the primary path to knowledge and truth.

The Islamic perspective on science as a form of knowledge is characterized by an inextricable connection to God as its source. Modern science, which stops short of connecting phenomena to their ultimate source is therefore an incomplete explanation of phenomena. There can be no possibility of conflict between God and science, since it is actually science that is subservient to God’s Command. And there are a lot of modern scientific discoveries that can be found in Islamic Scriptures written down almost 1,400 years ago. Below I will state a few:
Firstly, the Big Bang Theory,
"Have those who disbelieved not considered that the Heavens and the Earth were a joined singular entity, and We separated them and made from water every living thing? Then will they not believe?"
[al-Quran 21:30]
Second, the expansion of the universe,
"And the heavens We have constructed with strength, and indeed, We are the One Who expands it."
[al-Quran 51:47]
Third, the solar system type of atom,
“One bright spot in the Middle Ages comes from the Mohamedan world, a line from the pen of the mystic Ali who wrote: 'split whatsoever an atom and in its heart you will find a sun'
This would appear to indicate that in his mystical vision he had somehow glimpsed a preview of the modern solar system type of atom.”
Almighty Atom; the Real Story of Atomic Energy, Page 5, O'Neill, John J. (John Joseph), 1889
Astrophysicist Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson was asked by a reader of TIME magazine, "What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the universe?" This was his answer:
"I look up — many people feel small because they’re small and the Universe is big — but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars. There’s a level of connectivity. That’s really what you want in life, you want to feel connected, you want to feel relevant, you want to feel like a participant in the going-ons of activities and events around you. That’s precisely what we are, just by being alive."
And I say I’m sorry Dr. Tyson but Imam 'Ali said that much before you:
“Your cure is within you, yet you do not sense it. Your sickness is from you, yet you do not see it. 
You presume you are a small entity, but within you is enfolded the entire universe.”
And then we also have the Pharaoh's preserved body:
"What, now you believe when previously you also rebelled and were one of those who spread corruption? Today we will preserve your body so you can be a Sign for people who come after you. Surely many people are heedless of Our Signs." [al-Qur'an, 10:91-92]
In the 1900’s, Maurice Bucaille who was a French medical doctor, member of the French Society Of Egyptology, found the Pharaoh's preserved body in Egypt, and when he saw the verse in the Quran, he immediately converted to Islam.

This is just a dot in a sea of the knowledge the Quran and Islam has to offer but the mainstream media has prevented us from revealing these issues in public. They tend to extinguish the Light of Allah with their mouths,
but Allah refuses except to perfect His Light, although the disbelievers dislike it.

Muhammad Ali Hamoui al-Sayyed, The Veiled Secret

Monday, March 24, 2014

Deeds & Intentions

"O God! Purify my heart of hypocrisy, my actions of pretense, my tongue of lies, and my eyes of deception. For You know all well the deception of the eye and all that is concealed in the heart."
~ Prophet Muhammad, Kanz al-Ummal of Ali al-Muttaqi
The Islamic definition of a good deed is any charitable act that is done in the Name of God free of all ulterior motives, specially the kind that involves raising oneself in worldly status without piety in heart. Now, if a person is genuinely rewarded by their peers for their deeds, there is no harm in accepting it. However, it is asked of us that we ourselves do not demand any such reward from the people. The deeds of charity that we do are to remain only between God and us. And the rewards we do not get in this life are awarded to us in the next. As Jesus Christ says during the Sermon on the Mount, Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 6, Verses 1-4:
"Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
"So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving is secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you."
This is essential in the Islamic creed, that we are to remember whatever good deed we do is possible only because God has blessed us with the ability to do it. Hence, one should not long for a reward from the people but the Lord Who has allowed us to perform the act. Claiming full credit for a good and righteous deed without paying heed to the Existence of God is considered to be a form of worship that is not directed to the One Worthy of all Worship. Instead, it is as if the person has taken their own soul, their desire for fame, their ego and pride for worship. It is hidden polytheism for it raises the status of own self to the level of a deity, wrongfully, and, therefore, ultimately breaches the Testimony of Witness one utters to declare themselves a Muslim:
"There is no deity but God"
Through the aforementioned prayer, the Prophet Muhammad advises us to cleanse our souls of such hypocrisy and deception so that we may know without the Grace of God we are nothing, and without Faith our deeds are nothing.
"We are all infected and impure with sin, when we display our righteous deeds: they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind."
[Isaiah 64:6]
May God, Exalted is He, protect our hearts from the sin of hypocrisy, our tongue from the sin of treachery and lies, and our eyes from the sin of deception. Amen.

— Fahim Ferdous Promi

Sunday, March 23, 2014

What Do Muslims Believe? — God, Creation, Faith, Disbelief, Sin and Salvation

The following is a compilation of essays I penned for my Islamic Scriptures and Religions of the Western World class at Rutgers University, both conducted by Professor James Pavlin. It is on the beliefs of the Muslim faith regarding the Nature of God, Sin and Salvation, the role of Creation, the concept of Faith and Disbelief within Islam.

Arguably one of the most misunderstood religions of the world, it is no secret that the Islamic faith largely remains to many a concept shrouded in mystery. Yes, we often hear many Muslims trying to reach out to their non-Muslim brethren with messages of "We Love Jesus Too!" and "Islam Means Peace" but what do Muslims really believe in – about God, about Sin, about Salvation?

Now, before we begin I must tell you that the following piece is not an expository of Islamic theology speaking for all creeds existing within the religion – the sectarian divisions and variety of schools of thought. Instead, it is a very basic yet comprehensive overview of the faith. The article shall try to answer the following questions:
  • What is Islam? Who or what is a Muslim?
  • What status does the creation hold in the Eyes of God?
  • Who is God? What is the Islamic definition of the Divine Deity?
  • What does Islam believe of Sin and Salvation?
  • How does Islam deal with the question of Faith and Disbelief?

The word “Islam,” deriving from the root words “Silm,” meaning “submission,” and “Salam,” meaning “peace,” literally translates to “in peace through submission to the Will of God.” In Arabic, the doer of an action is defined by adding the prefix “mu” before the verb. In regards to this, anyone who performs the action of submitting themselves voluntarily and peacefully to the Will and Commandments of God is a “Mu-Islam” or “Muslim.”

Thus, the Islamic creed proclaims every object in creation is a Muslim because every object in creation is a loyal servant of God, created to obey His Laws without transgression. The sun, the moon, the stars, the trees and the animals are all prescribed laws to follow, which they do. The laws of gravity, thermodynamics and energy conservation are three of many set in place to govern the workings of the universe, matters concerning both animate and inanimate objects. The Qur’an tells us that the courses of all these things are set in motion by God and they loyally abide by it, not possessing the ability to deny or disobey as they have rejected the burden of free-will. They wished to remain obedient to their Lord and as such they are in peace through submission to Him making them all Muslims.

This is treated as an honor. Since God is the Supreme Creator and there is none higher than He, being objects of His creation and His design is obviously the greatest of all privileges and glory. We can take into consideration the work of a well-known artist being credited highly because of the reputation of the artist. Similarly, all creation has been given dignity and value as creatures created by God as default due to His Absolute Esteem and Majesty.

All creation finds its worth in being the servant of the Master Creator. God created everything in the universe with an intention in mind, and not merely for jest as He has decreed in the Qur’an: “We have not created the Heavens and the Earth, and what is between them, merely out of vanity” [38:17], nor as a matter of play [21:16].

Instead, everything in creation is an important piece of a puzzle, a significant part of a well-oiled machine, the absence of which may cause a disastrous butterfly effect all over the pattern. In other words, all objects in creation, whether animate or inanimate, is assigned a place in a scheme of grandiose proportions, carefully knit together by the Master of the Worlds to follow their course of action as decreed by Him, and in this is great honor and value.

Take for example someone working for the king of a country or the president. Whatever duty he is given, he takes great pride in it because it comes from the king or the president. Similarly, the duty prescribed for the sun, the moon, the stars, the cloud, the rains, the water, the animals and plants, fire and wind, and everything else in existence has been prescribed to them by God, King of Kings and the Most Supreme of all masters. He is Almighty and thus there is no greater honor than to serve Him. Therefore, the value of creation comes through the reputation of their Master and to ascribe other creators than the Most High God is degrading to them because that would be similar to the servant of a king being called the servant of a pauper. All creation is thus given equal dignity, value and honor of being creatures of the One and Only Almighty Creator, God.

Islam believes God is transcendent and emphasizes this point very strongly going as far as to claim God does not exist in our plane of being. The two realms are vehemently held as entirely separate from one another. Our realm is the created realm and His is the One that is Eternal like Him. He doesn't reside on Earth nor even in Heaven. He is not of physical design and He is not constituted of matter but His Visage is inconceivable by the limited human mind. To mix God together with the created realm would be to compromise His Oneness and Uniqueness.

However, the Essence of God is immanent throughout the universe and all that exists. He is not present within the created realm physically but His Mercy abides within us all. One Name for God used in Islam is Ar-Rahman meaning Most-Merciful which emphasizes the aforementioned point. Another Name attributed to God in Islam is al-Muqsith meaning the One Who Sustains connoting that it is the Power and Absolute Majesty of God that sustains and supports everything around us. He provides the crutch to hold up all of creation. These are only but two names out of ninety-nine in Islam describing the Divine Qualities of God through which he is present among us not physically but in an ethereal and spiritual sense. Islam claims in the Qur'an: "To God belong the East and the West; wherever you may turn, there is the Face of God" [2:115] meaning that God's Reach is Infinite and even though physically separated in another Realm of His Own, we are always eternally within His Grasp.

Similar to Judaism and Christianity, the nature of Sin and Salvation is explained in Islam through its Creation Lore, that is, the story of the Genesis of Humankind – the Conception of Adam and Eve, or Hawwa, as she is called in Arabic. There are significant differences between the Genesis story of Judeo-Christian beliefs and Islam, as there are differences in the faiths’ ideas of Sin and Salvation. When discussing the idea of sin in Islam, Muslims do not speak of it as default human nature. In other words, being sinful is not something that is inherent in us as it was not inherent in either Adam or Eve. Instead, what happened was they were negligent and forgetful and thus they forgot or neglected God’s order as to not eat of the fruit in the Garden due to a relapse of judgment in their part thus causing them to slip for a moment and transgress God’s command. And so is defined the nature of all humankind.

When God created Adam and Eve, He appointed them to be His representatives on Earth – His caliph. So, humans were naturally created, as per Islamic beliefs, to carry out the Will of God and establish His Design on Earth through His Laws and His Commandments. Humans were thus given the duty to protect all of God’s creation and enjoin peace in the world. This was our covenant with the Lord. However, humans are also described to be weak in memory, always forgetting who they are and neglecting the natural law of submission to God as the way of fulfilling their true nature. They become oblivious and unaware of who they are and what they should be doing in this world.

Thus, humans then fall into temptation, become subservient to their own desires, passions and obsessions. However, Islam does not describe these cravings and desires to be evil by nature. They are only evil when they are pursued in excess and through unlawful means which overrides against God’s Commandments. For example, let us take eating or sexual intercourse as an example. Both of them elicit a form of hunger in humans and both require to be satisfied in order for us to be complete. Now, there are various methods of appeasing the hunger. One can eat all that is lawful, avoiding pork and alcohol and the meat of cattle or animals which have been tortured to death, and involve themselves in intercourse with partners in wedlock. This is lawful. On the other hand, one can also maim and kill another to eat or rape and pillage another for intercourse. That is when our desires lead to sin.

In Islam, God has prescribed boundaries for us not to cross and as long as our desires and cravings are pleased within these boundaries, it is not sinful. However, due to our negligent nature, we, humans, forget these boundaries that have been put in place for us and we begin to sin. As per the story of Genesis in Islam goes, Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden where they could have had all they ever desired and fulfilled their desires through those means as long as they did not eat of the fruit, this was their boundary. But, they forgot about it and fell into sin.

Now comes the idea of Salvation in Islam. A primary difference between the Genesis story in the Bible and the Qur’an is that in the latter, Adam and Eve repent after they eat of the fruit in the Garden and their repentance is accepted by God and God forgives them. This is the notion of Salvation is Islam. God forgives as long as one repents sincerely. In the end, Islam is about struggling and striving to fulfill God’s Commandments but not perfecting it because our limited, forgetful nature makes it impossible to do so. Humans are to strive to follow the Qur’an and Sunnah to accomplish God’s Command. Humans are to strive and remember God and His Laws, and resist falling into sin and temptations, but humans cannot avoid sin completely. However, this is not a problem; this is the point. Islam is about earning God’s Mercy and Forgiveness through devotion to Him, His worship and remembrance in Man’s daily lives, not about overcoming his or her humanity.

In regards to matters of belief and disbelief, Islam does not cite blind faith to be one’s mean to approach the former and dismiss the latter. Instead, Islam encourages belief through rationality. Islam holds the idea that humans are not inherently sinful by default but rather they are negligent and forgetful in nature, disobeying God’s Laws through ill memory and overlooking the signs of God’s existence via similar methods. In other words, humans forget.

Disbelief, or the act “kufr,” in Islam, is believed to be the consequence of human beings forgetting and neglecting the obvious signs present in the universe of God’s existence. Humans see around them the natural order of things: the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, the moon follows shift and on comes nightfall, specific times allocated for the two and neither clash against one another. There is a harmoniously set hierarchy present among animals of the wild and even the plants. Each celestial body – the sun, the moon, the planet, the stars – are all assigned their respective orbits and one orbit is not occupied by more than one planet to cause disruption between them. The laws of gravity are put in place to hold everything down in order. The water cycle is in balance. Even in our own bodies we have the intricate detailing of the blood vessels, the bones, the muscles, the bundles of nerves, the cardiovascular system, the digestive system with its optimum pH levels and presence of natural catalysts in the form of enzymes for reactions to take place, mytochondria in cells, minutely crafted organelles, etc. and the designing of it all is so complex and efficient that Islam argues it could not have been possible without an Intelligent Designer in charge, an Almighty Creator, One Who puts it all into motion for the benefit of us all so that we may be grateful to Him in return and worship Him. Regarding this, God, through the Qur’an, tells us in the first thirteen verses of Surah ar-Rahman:
Most Gracious
Taught the Qur'an.
Created man:
Taught him speech.
The sun and the moon move by precise calculation;
And the herbs and trees bow in adoration.
And the Firmament has He raised high, and He has set up the Balance,
In order that ye may not transgress it.
So establish weight with justice and fall not short in the scale.
It is He Who has spread out the earth for His creatures:
Therein is fruit and date-palms, producing sheaths and spathes;
Also corn, with its leaves and stalk for fodder, and sweet-smelling plants.
Then which of the favors of your Lord will ye deny?

Islam treats the issue of disbelief or “kufr” as a result of humans being oblivious to the signs around them. Similar to the excerpt I quoted above, the Qur’an mentions multitudes of times about the natural laws holding the universe in place and asking the readers if they believe have they created it all, even their own selves, by themselves, or have they come from nothing:
“Were they created by nothing? Or were they themselves the creators?”
[Qur’an 52:35]

Islam argues that those immersed in the act of kufr, also known as the kuffar, are covering up the truth. Hence, the Arabic word “kufr” being used to describe the act which literally means “to cover up.” Islam holds the notion that these men and women, the kuffar, they see the world around them, the signs, they study them, the complex workings of it all and yet they fail to see the truth or they deny it through neglect. They are unaware of the Creator. When they see the various laws and processes of the world around them in motion, they struggle to understand the “how” and come to their various conclusions about, debate and discuss over it but they fail to comprehend the “Who.”

In doing so, the kuffar start to believe that they have full knowledge of all things and they have attained what they believe through logic and reasoning but Islam also argues that the intelligence of humans is limited and thus the knowledge they have attained is not complete. It is flawed and it has overlooked some very important details causing them to travel down the road to disbelief. Eventually, this cause the kuffar to become mushriks, that is, those who commit shirk – the act of elevating a creation to the stature of God, by attributing divinity to nature believing they are self-sustaining and godlike.
“Yet they have taken besides Him other gods who created nothing but are themselves created, and possess neither harm nor benefit for themselves, and possess no power of causing death, nor giving life, nor of raising the dead.”
[Qur’an 25:3]
Thus, they commit the ultimate sin, the greatest injustice and treason possible: they live in God’s created universe, enjoying His bountiful gifts and provisions, and then they turn away from Him, disobeying Him and worshiping His creation rather than the true Lord, Master and Creator.

In order to avoid falling into disbelief, Islam asks us to seek knowledge. In the Qur’an, God orders man to, “Read in the Name of thy Lord” [96:1]. Because through knowledge humans will begin to understand the world around them, the complexity of it and the beauty of it, the intricate engineering behind it all and only then shall men and women begin to comprehend that there is indeed an Architect Who has designed the blueprint.

The guidance to learn in the Qur’an comes from God but no-one is compelled to follow it: “Let there be no compulsion in religion” [2:256]. Instead, humans are to hear of the Revelation in the Qur’an, study it, examine it and scrutinize it, test it as they please and inquire of it, until finally their reason leads them to faith. Islam believes this is the natural way because the same God did both, created human reason and sent down the Qur’an.

Islam encourages its followers to push their intellect on towards belief through knowledge and rationality. Islam asks the followers of its creed to traverse the lands and gain understanding of our world and the universe because everywhere in this universe the same truth is to be found, for everything is of one piece in God’s Design. In this way, through using our intelligence in studying God’s Revelation, the Qur’an, and the world around us, humans are asked to shun disbelief and arrive at Imaan – Faith in God, the Truth and certain knowledge, as proclaimed in the Qur’an: “The Truth has come, and falsehood has perished” [17:81].

— Fahim Ferdous Promi

Friday, March 21, 2014

Heart Of Crystal

My heart is of crystal, that's what everyone said to me
I wish to feel what it was supposed to be.
I heard love is a lock and trust is a key,
But I couldn't understand because I couldn't see
The pain I felt when I saw you part
It all vanished, and I got a start.

Yet, it was still not clear,
Because I was nursing a terrible fear
That one day my heart of crystal will of course perish,
Along with the love I cherish.

I always wondered why it was called crystal
Now I know because it was meant to be fatal.
My heart of crystal was clear to see,
Which was indeed very dear to me.

But I could not find a cure that could heal me,
My heart is of crystal, that's what everyone said to me.
Was a sensitive stone which wasn't meant to be,
A broken pile of glasses which were really hurting me.
Now I could feel what it was supposed to be,
It was a broken heart without its key.

— Ani Bunny

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Do Arab Men Hate Women?

Rise Up, Ye Gender Appreciative's

My point of reference are loaned thoughts. One I borrow from Mohammed Al Saif wherein he identifies that Saudi males suffer from gynophobia or the fear of women. He uses the example of Saudi woman activist Samar Badawi, and the backlash amongst the local community over her receiving the International Women of Courage Award early this month in recognition of her role in advocating women's rights in the country. The other loaned thought is from American Bedu wherein she asks in a related post: “Somewhat ironic that while Saudi men will worship, honour and usually obey their mothers, they have a candid disregard of other women.”

Imagine a society where all women are educated and given the same opportunities as their menfolk. They earn the same amount, work the same hours, play the same games and have the same respect. Utopia? Not exactly. From another loan: “You're either the lamb or the knife. If you're both, you're going to cut yourself and bleed out one day.”

Forcing all women to become powerful, assertive and 'free' is tantamount to pushing them off a cliff. We're failing to reach a balance where we have the choice and option of 'freedom' to reach the level of President, if that be the highest state of liberation on a “free” world, and the choice to stay home and bake cupcakes, lounge in pyjama bottoms, and have a lift club for the kids. If,that be the highest state of liberation for a stay-at-home woman, which sadly it is not.

The emancipation must come from within. And it lies largely with our menfolk. Among the most powerful, yet humble women I've encountered are those who have strong male role models and support. Am I saying that women need men to succeed? Yes, that's what I'm saying. That's what we need for an Islamic society to progress. Get rid of the redundant notions of western feminists, and Islamic feminists and let us work towards gender appreciation. When push comes to shove men and women can do the work of each other. Combat rank females in the US military have a greater risk they say of rape from their fellow soldiers than been struck by opposition artillery. Males, they say are the worlds best chefs, sometimes the better care givers too.

Education that leads to University degrees, that lead to powerful careers maybe the key, but I doubt it. Among the women I interact with, I see plenty of degrees and careers, yet still a rising level of marital discord and petty arguments. The reason daddy educated her was 'so one day if she needed to she could stand on her own two feet.' Well, yAy! for that, but how does it help two miserable people and their children, when the same has ricochet effects in a society? Again, gender appreciation is key. Instead of giving our men puffer-fish-syndrome in a mosque lecturing them on how their Prophet [pbuh] made them the would-be objects of prostration, explain why and how they reach that status. Why such a a lofty rank? Why such responsibility? Why are they garments, protectors and maintainers? And do it without adding the jocular 'cos they're emotional beings,' yeah.

When the Prophet [pbuh]'s lovely wife Aisha [rad] was slandered and accused of adultery her husband was distraught, searching for ways to prove her innocence, going as far as asking her servant Bareera [rad] to give her a good character reference:

"I cannot accuse her of any defect except that she is still young and falls asleep, forgetting about the family's dough which the domestic goats come in to eat. (i.e. she was too naive and simple minded to deceive her husband)." [Sahih Bhukari]

Among the many things this teaches us, aside from Rasulullah [pbuh]'s devotion to his wife was that Aisha [rad], the most celebrated and revered female muhaddith, is human. She was easily bored. She got tired. She lost interest in the mundane. It is reported as a flaw, yet raised her status, and her rank. Let any career orientated woman be any less than domestic goddess and what do we get in our societies? Complaints. Yet, no solutions. Certainly, not that it is okay. Not the way our Prophet [pbuh] saw it.

There's a spoke in the wheel of our progression, and dishing out degrees, careers and awards to women may not be the solution.

As Gloria Stienem rightly said:
We've begun to raise daughters more like sons... but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.
Similar thoughts are resonated in this post about a gender entitlement quote from Pastor Douglas Wilson.

HELP! The Feminists Have Stolen My Testicles!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Disney's "Frozen" — An Ode to Female Independence and Solidarity

Frozen, Disney’s Thanksgiving present to the world, is making the rounds around Tumblr and Facebook as viewers across the globe are tantalized by the musical sensation that takes flight from the usual mold of Disney princesses, generally requiring the crutch of a prince to save the day, to a novel tale of two sisters and a kingdom of perpetual winter. The story propagates the message of why it is important for girls to stay united and support each other while also conveys the significance of independence for women.

The synopsis of Frozen revolves around the sisters, Elsa, who is apparently cryokinetic, and Anna. Elsa has no idea how to control her powers and one night, while the two sisters are playing, she injures her younger sibling which promptly churns the story into motion. Their parents seek help from the trolls to heal Anna following which her memories are scrubbed so she no longer remembers the events of her older sister hurting her. Meanwhile, Elsa, distraught, practically grounds herself in her room in despair. Their parents vow to lock the family in their castle until Elsa learns to control her powers.

Elsa’s decision to condemn herself in her room wedges a rift in between herself and her sister Anna. When the girls reach their teens, their parents are lost at sea consequent of a storm. As Elsa comes of age, she is lined up to be the queen and the kingdom of Arendelle prepares for her coronation. The gates of the castle are opened again and Anna ventures through town coming across Prince Hans. The two are infatuated while Elsa is crowned queen. During her reception, Hans proposes to Anna but Elsa refuses to allow her sister to marry a man she has just met. The two engage in an argument resulting Elsa in losing control of her powers plunging the kingdom into an endless winter.

Elsa, repulsed by what she has done, leaves Arendelle and exiles herself in her own solitary ice palace. Anna leaves on a quest to find her, coming across mountain man Kristoff and his reindeer Sven. As the story unfolds from there on, Disney unveils its greatest ace-in-the-hole with the dramatic reveal of Hans as the main antagonist of the movie.

This stands as Frozen’s most remarkable legacy. Following the events of Anna finding Elsa in the mountains and trying to convince her to return to Arendelle, the two argue once more and Elsa yet again injures Anna inadvertently. Anna slowly begins to freeze from the inside and it is told that she can only be healed by an act of true love. At this point any prior Disney movie would have probably had Prince Hans kissing Anna back to life, capturing Elsa, saving a kitten from a tree, rescuing an infant from a flaming house of fire, heralding world peace and stopping Lord Satan from unleashing the apocalypse faster than you can say deus ex machina. Instead, Frozen takes another route, one that had never been traversed by Disney. As Prince Hans is approached to help Anna from turning into a chunk of ice, he turns her away exposing his true plans to have wanted to marry Anna only to seize the throne of Arendelle.

Unlike previous Disney villains, Hans is original in the sense that, while most Disney villains are pretty much evidently evil since their first appearance, usually symbolized exhibiting pasty skin or are garbed in dark shades of grey, black or purple, he appears trustworthy and shows none of his true nature throughout the bulk of the plot leaving the audience dumbstruck at his reveal. If for nothing else, Frozen most certainly snatches attention with this and it will remain a testament to the movie’s originality.

Nonetheless, there is more. Unlike the Disney movies of the past, often highlighting the main character’s relationship with her lead man, here the focal point of the story is the bond between the two sisters rather than one between a man and a woman. The movie preaches the importance of filial love: that you never give up on family. Ever.

Also, Frozen makes its mark with the climactic scene where Anna saves her sister Elsa from the blade of Hans, subsequently ending up saving her own self too as the sacrificing she was willing to make for her sister counted as an act of love that was required to undo the power turning her into ice. Elsa learns that the secret to controlling her abilities is love and the kingdom thrives happily ever after. So, in the end, rather than prince-charming saving the damsel-in-distress, the girls save themselves through love that binds their sisterhood.

Aside from the innovative plot, Frozen also does a great job with the scenic details in animation and its musical score with the song “Do You Wanna Build A Snowman?” pretty much becoming an internet meme overnight.

Overall, Frozen breaks stereotypes of the timeworn Disney fairy-tales and spins a fable anew with superb dextertity, ingenuity and a touch of icy magic. It’s definitely a must-watch for every Disney-fan and a great family movie for kids.

Oh, by the way, did I mention Elsa is not really a Disney princess? She is a queen. And Frozen nicks itself a solid A+!

— Ani Bunny

Egyptian-born Woman Quickly Becomes "Most Powerful Woman in the City of ‪‎London‬"

Nemat Shafik, 51, has been appointed deputy governor of the Bank of England, turning her into "the most powerful woman in London," according to The Guardian.

The Guardian reports that Nemat Shafik had been the deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund for nearly three years. She was also the youngest ever vice president of the World Bank.

Nemat, who is today a US and British national, was born in Alexandria, but her family left in the 1960s "after her father lost everything during the country's nationalisation," she explained to The Guardian.

It was her experience during this time that shaped her future. "I guess the particular angle that I have on development comes from the fact that my family was nationalised, and when that occurred, I left as a child and was raised in the US and didn't go back to Egypt until I was a teenager. But that experience of nationalisation and struggling with the role of the state trying to take resources, to redistribute them, but at the same time not being very successful at it was a part of my childhood," she said.

Nemat finished high school in ‪Egypt‬ and then returned to the US where she studied economics and politics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst before undertaking a MSc in economics at London School of Economics and a doctorate from St Antony's College, Oxford.

— Sean Farrell, The Guardian via Egyptian Streets

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Secular Law or Religious Sentiment — What Would Be The Best Approach To The Palestine/Israel Conflict?

Islam, Equity and Feminism

A few days ago we saw the entirety of Twittersphere and the whole interweb blaze into a raging inferno centering around Sheikh Abu Eesa’s parade of disparaging prods at women. I won’t be commenting on that. Instead, I’m going to focus my energy on a larger issue here. Does feminism have a role to play in Islam?

Many critics of feminism from the Muslim community would say no. Yet their reasoning remains grossly unsound. Often times it is the same old, “Islam has already liberated women and given them their independent free rights fourteen-hundred years ago! We don’t need modern feminism!” In this article I will attempt to break down why that argument just doesn’t work. However, that is not the only issue I'll try my hand on. There are a few more.

A couple of months ago, I was asked by a close friend, "What does Islam provide me that makes me declare proudly that I'm a woman?" I will be completely honest over here. I did not have an answer. I did use the timeworn reply, "You bear the responsibility of motherhood." This did not please her. She immediately blasted me back with a retort that I personally found disturbing. It involved comparing a mother to a factory that produces babies. I'm sure most people are aware that a duty of a mother is a far lot more. Nonetheless, I will admit that my response to her question was deficient and I will try to tackle the query a bit better this time.

Furthermore, I was also asked why it was that so many males have been mentioned by name in the Qur'an while only one woman, Mother Mary, has been given that same honor. It seems like this problem is one created by Muslims themselves when they try to pass Islam off as a religion that has women figures as much as men.

We name Hazrat 'Aisha, Khadija and Hafsa, Lady Zainab and Fatima, among many others, however, unfortunately, more often than not these women are spoken of not for who they are personally, but rather who they are related to – Mary, mother of Jesus; ‘Aisha, wife of Muhammad; Zainab, daughter of ‘Ali, etc. Don’t these women of Islam have an identity of their own? Surely they do, we merely fail to talk about it.

In conclusion to this rather lengthy introduction, the piece that I am about to write is going to grapple with a wide array of topics:
  • Is feminism compatible with Islam?
  • Is there a necessity of a feminist movement for Muslims?
  • Are the talks of Muslim women figures in Islamic theology such as Hazrat Maryam and Zainab a case of pure apologetics?

First of all, in order to start off this discussion, it is very important to establish the definition of feminism. Feminism is not a movement to implant the superiority of women over men. Feminism is rather a movement to demand equal social, political and economic rights for both men and women. Does Islam advocate this? Yes.

Islam firmly believes in equity and uniform justice between men and women on grounds that, in the end, we are all immaterial souls installed into a physical body imparted with the responsibility to do good and act righteously for the sake of God. No-one is greater in the sight of God for being male or female, rich or poor, white or black except for those who are pious and charitable towards their fellow human beings and living creatures.

During a time when women were seen as nothing more than disposable commodity, the birth of a girl was seen as disgraceful for the household and infanticide of daughters through live burial was common, Islam gave women not only the status of being human but also the honor of being wives and mothers rather than lifeless sex slaves as they were deemed to be by society then. But is it enough? Absolutely not.

The misogyny that Prophet Muhammad fought against back then using the weapon of Islam does not excuse us to sit idle and absorb the misogyny prevalent in society today. Misogyny does not only reside within child burials and entitling women as sex slaves of society. If our Prophet were alive today he would be fighting the modern patriarchal views of the current era just as he did during his own. If he elevated the status of women from being treated as worse than dogs to beholding Heaven underneath their feet, by God, he would have fought against the disgusting ilk of forced marriages, female genital mutilation and domestic abuse. Why are we afraid to follow his example?

The problem among many Muslims today is that we are complacent with saying that Islam has granted women equal rights as men 1,400 years ago and then exercising none of it. The dilemma is baffling. If a country has laws that dictate murder to be a crime and there is a large serial-killing spree followed by a protest demanding the quick apprehension of the criminal, we don't go around and say, "Why are these people creating such a ruckus right now? We criminalized murder in our constitution years ago!"

Just because Islam laid down the foundations of equal rights for men and women does not mean that everyone follows it. Islam asks us to pay mandatory money to charity and you still have Saudi monarchs sitting on billions of dollars sparing not a penny on the poor and needy. Yes, the laws are in place but most of us fail to execute it and therein lies the problem. We need a movement to put the gears into motion, to remind us that Islam advocates for equal rights and it is high time we act upon it. We need a feminist movement.

A common cop-out by many Muslims today to counter against charges of misogyny within the Islamic community is that Islam venerates women to the point where we have figures like Maryam umm 'Isa and Hazrat Zainab binte 'Ali as key characters in our theology and history. People cite chapters of the Qur'an named after women, etc. Stop.

There are multiple issues with this approach. First of all, no-one is arguing Islam is misogynistic. The simple accusation is that Muslim communities are misogynistic and this may very well be a problem of the people within the community failing to follow the tenets of the faith. Second, the very context that we mention venerated figures of Islamic history and theology such as Saint Mary and Lady Zainab is wrong.

Saint Mary, Lady Zainab, Hazrat 'Aisha and Fatima, Bibi Khadija, these people we speak of in Islamic literature are not venerated because they are women similarly as Prophet Muhammad, Abraham or Jesus are not venerated because they are men. The gender has little to do with it. Their actions are what makes them noteworthy. 

Prophet Muhammad, Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab, Imam Husayn are not role models for just Muslim men but Muslim women too. Their zeal to fight for peace and liberty against oppression and injustice is one we are to emulate in our daily lives regardless of our age, gender, nationality, social status or sexual identity.

The same goes for Mary. The Virgin Mother is a foremost symbol of personal strength and independence, a young woman surviving on her own in a vastly patriarchal society not only dismissive of her values but openly hostile towards her. A huge number of us today, whether men or women, often face such similar circumstances in an increasingly materialistic, venomous world.

Hazrat Khadija is yet another symbol of such strength, a woman supporting her spouse regardless of the social pressure bearing down on her given that she was literally harboring public enemy number one of her era while maintaining a business successful enough to sustain herself and her family is impressive. On top of that, bravely accepting a faith seen as the brand of a pariah during the time? Dude, that's like walking around with a giant bull's eye on your forehead. #Badass

One has to realize that even though all these figures were related to great men, in Islamic faith, we believe God dictates everything and God chooses people for responsibilities as per their skills and capabilities. For instance, the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad, it is believed by Muslims, were chosen to be the best of all generations. They are referred to as the Righteous Predecessors. This wasn't a matter of chance but a mandate from God.

And while we're on that note, it is also important to note that the men around Prophet Muhammad are also known through their relation to him as his companions but venerated because of their own merit. 'Aisha and Khadija may be known to us as wives of the Prophet but that is not what earns them respect, that comes through with their virtue whether it be the role they played in preserving the traditions of Islam as done by Sayyida 'Aisha or protecting and supporting the Prophet as done by Bibi Khadija.

The fact of the matter is that we also know of the wife of Prophet Lot, the son of Noah and Abu Lahab is also named in the Qur'an. None of these are honors in and of itself. Just because the wife of Lot, the son of Noah and Abu Lahab are mentioned in the Qur'an does not mean they are in any way better than the people around them. Neither of the three are mentioned in a positive light and all three, along with Satan and the Pharaoh of the Exodus, also characters mentioned in the Qur'an, are condemned to Hell.

Basically the characters mentioned in the Qur'an are not chosen to be so because of their gender or nationality; instead, they are categorized as souls, liberated of all forms identity except for whether they are righteous and good or wicked and sinful. Mary is righteous, the Pharaoh is sinful. Moses is righteous, Abu Lahab is sinful. This is the only differentiation made in regards to them in the Qur'an. 

The examples set forth by God through the narrative of these figures are to serve as a moral guidance and a warning to people of all nations, all sexual identities and orientations, all age groups and all social classes. The message is simple: do not be greedy, do not be envious, do not be proud; spend in charity, love your fellow neighbor, be humble.

— Fahim Ferdous Promi

What Is Wrong With Islam Today?

Crimea Secedes. So What?

Residents of Crimea voted over the weekend on whether they would remain an autonomous region of Ukraine or join the Russian Federation. In so doing, they joined a number of countries and regions — including recently Scotland, Catalonia and Venice — that are seeking to secede from what they view as unresponsive or oppressive governments.

These latter three are proceeding without much notice, while the overwhelming Crimea vote to secede from Ukraine has incensed U.S. and European Union officials, and has led NATO closer to conflict with Russia than since the height of the Cold War.

What's the big deal? Opponents of the Crimea vote like to point to the illegality of the referendum. But self-determination is a centerpiece of international law. Article I of the United Nations Charter points out clearly that the purpose of the U.N. is to "develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples."

Why does the U.S. care which flag will be hoisted on a small piece of land thousands of miles away?

Critics point to the Russian "occupation" of Crimea as evidence that no fair vote could have taken place. Where were these people when an election held in an Iraq occupied by U.S. troops was called a "triumph of democracy"?

Perhaps the U.S. officials who supported the unconstitutional overthrow of Ukraine's government should refocus their energies on learning our own Constitution, which does not allow the U.S. government to overthrow governments overseas or send a billion dollars to bail out Ukraine and its international creditors.

Though the Obama administration has applied some minimal sanctions on selected Russian and Crimean individuals, neither the U.S. nor the EU can afford significant sanctions against Russia. Global trade provides too much economic benefit to both sides.

Indeed, international markets rallied on news that the sanctions would be thus far minimal. They understand that trade and economic engagement are the surest roads to peace and prosperity. Let's hope governments will follow their lead.

Ron PaulRon Paul Channel

Monday, March 17, 2014

Moral Values & Good Deeds

"God has sent me to profess and practice moral values and good deeds."
~ Prophet Muhammad, Sharh as-Sunnah al-Baghawi

Islam firmly believes that the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God be upon him, is the prime exemplification of what every Muslim must strive to be, in conduct and in mannerism.

He is our moral compass; his peers have described him to be the living, breathing, walking Qur'an and one of the many Names of the Noble Qur'an is al-Furqan, the Criterion of Good and Evil. Hence, for a Muslim, the Prophet acts as a scale to measure and judge what is righteous and what is sinful. He is the one who guides the way for our morality to be of those who are saved by the Grace of God through Faith and through Deeds.

May God, Exalted is He, grant us the ability to follow the footsteps of His Holy Apostle and be among those to join his Companions and the People of the House in the Garden of Paradise. Amen.

— Fahim Ferdous Promi

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Imam and the Rape Victim

Imam Abdul Razzaq is not famous. He has probably never been outside of his native Pakistan, let alone his small village of Meerwala. You’ll most likely never see him on television or read about him much. But he has done what many Imams and most men still find very difficult to do: defend a gang-raped woman in the face of other, more powerful (and armed) men.

On an otherwise ordinary Friday in June 2002, Imam Abdul Razzaq gave a Khutba. But not just any Khutba – it was a sermon with shock value. In it, he condemned the gang rape of Mukhtar Mai, which had occurred a few days earlier. Mai was a young woman whose teenage brother was falsely accused of engaging in a relationship with a woman from a “higher” tribe. The punishment for this, according to village elders was for his sister, Mukhtar Mai, to be gang-raped by men from the “offended” woman’s tribe. And that she was.

After being raped and paraded naked in front of hundreds in a place where women do not venture outside without being modestly dressed, and billboards of semi-clad females are virtually non-existent, Mai contemplated suicide.

This traumatized woman would have done it – until Imam Abdul Razzaq knocked on her door.

The Imam convinced both Mai and her father to press charges. He went with them to the local police station and helped them report the incident. Then, he delivered his Khutba and called a journalist to give the crime publicity. Once the article about the horrific attack came out, the news spread first within Pakistan. Then, a few weeks later, the BBC picked it up and brought it to the world.

The publicity gave Mai the strength countless women raped in similar fashion never received. It gave her courage in the face of the seemingly insurmountable mountain of misogyny.

Imam Abdul Razzaq never received rape crisis training; he did not complete a degree in Women’s Studies; he was not pressured by Western non-governmental organizations (NGOs), nor has he ever lived in a part of the world where discussions about women’s rights, women’s equality, feminism or gender justice take place. His village, at least at the time of Mukhtar Mai’s rape, had virtually no electric power service and no telephones.

But Imam Abdul Razzaq received a different kind of training. It was in not just reading and memorizing the Quran, but truly living by its commands of justice.

“O you who believe! stand out firmly for justice, As witnesses to Allah, Even As against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. follow not the lusts (of your hearts), Lest you swerve, and if you distort (justice) or decline to do justice, Verily Allah is well- acquainted with all that you do.”
(Quran 4:135)

Imam Abdul Razzaq knew that rape is wrong, regardless of how often it happens, who it happens to, or where it happens, whether it is in the alleys of Meerwala or on the streets of Manhattan. Imam Abdul Razzaq also knows that giving Khutbas is necessary, but to truly stand up for what’s right, especially for a woman whose cries are normally unheeded by the society around him, requires action.

This great, underappreciated Imam, also understands that violence against women is not a “women’s issue”. It is a men’s issue as well. In fact, it is very much a “Muslim issue”. It is about the core of Islamic teachings: justice for the weak, and standing up for what is right in every way we can, with every tool at our disposal.

During this month of March, which is Women’s History Month, Imam Abdul Razzaq’s example is one more Muslims should highlight, discuss, and emulate. He is an example not only for Imams and male Muslim leaders, but Muslim men across the board.

May Allah make us just to all, especially the weakest and most vulnerable of our communities, following the lead of Imams like Imam Abdul Razzaq.

Sound Vision team conveys its Salam to Imam Abdul Razzaq and to Mukhtar Mai. Both of them symbols of courage, wisdom, and justice.


–– Abdul Malik Mujahid, Sound Vision

Friday, March 14, 2014

Salam ar-Ruh w'al-Qulub

Never have I felt true peace and serenity except that which descends unto me upon the reciting of these Words,

In the Name of God, Most Beneficent, Most Merciful
Praise be unto You, Lord and Sustainer of All Existence
Most Gracious, Most Compassionate
Master of the Day of Judgement
You Alone we Worship, You Alone we ask for Help
Guide us to the Path of the Righteous
Not that of those who have incurred Your Wrath nor that of those who have been lead astray

The Verses of the Opening
Sweetens the tongue like nectar,
Washes the body like water,
Comforts the ears like honey,
Cleanses the heart like milk,
And cures the spirit like balm.
It is the Wine of the Believer.

I close my eyes,
I set my mind to rest,
I open the window to my inner self,
And let the syllables sink in.

Every fiber of my being trembles.
I witness the waves of the ocean,
Turbulent as they are lead to sleep,
Like a cerulean giant melting into glass.

I hear the choirs of angels singing,
Their voices tame the wind.
A soft breeze heals the soul.

I see the canvas of the twilight sky
A nocturnal blend of lavender and sepia,
Fuchsia and violet,
Hovering beneath a blanket of black and blue velvet,
Embedded with gemstones of the heavens.

— Fahim Ferdous Promi