Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.
– J. R. R. Tolkien
This one was put in a jacket,
This one was sent home,
This one was given bread and meat
But would eat none,
And this one cried No No No No
All day long.
This one looked at the window
As though it were a wall,
This one saw things that were not there,
And this one cried No No No No
All day long.
This one thought himself a bird,
This one a dog,
And this one thought himself a man,
An ordinary man,
And cried and cried No No No No
All day long.
NORMAL, Illinois – Feeling the pinch of Muslims’ stereotyping in the US, Muslim student association in Illinois state university hopes to reach out to their colleagues and local community to clear misconception.
“When you interact with someone, it’s hard to stereotype them,” Sarmad Gilani, 2010 graduate of Illinois State University, told The Pantagraph website on Saturday, April 23.
Growing up in Bloomington, Gilani did not experience any problems growing up as a Muslim in the Twin Cities.
Instead of living in a closed community, he chose to interact with the other to give them a clear message about Islam and dispel stereotypes that usually revolve around his religion.
Preaching the same message, the Muslim Student Association in Illinois State University (ISU) organized a panel discussing the issue titled “You Have Questions, We Have Answers!”
The panel, organized in ISU’s Old Main Room, is part of a two day events organized by Muslim students.
The event also included a free showing of the movie “Abraham’s Children.”
Since 9/11, US Muslims, estimated between six to seven million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.
Anti-Muslim frenzy has grown sharply in the US in recent months over plans to build a mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York, resulting in attacks on Muslims and their property.
In Hollywood, the world’s cinema industry hub, Muslims and Arabs usually play the stereotypical blood-thirst terrorists or the uncivilized and greedy.
The head of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), America’s largest Jewish movement, has accused US media of demonizing Islam and portraying Muslims as “satanic figures.”
A 2007 survey by Pew Research Center and the Pew Forum found that the majority of Americans know very little about the practices of Islam.
It indicated that attitudes toward Muslims and Islam have grown more negative in recent years.
Discussing the issue, the student’s panel aimed at dispelling stereotypes that usually revolve around Islam, mainly terrorism and women’s rights.
Donning hijab, Anam Kazim is often asked about it since she moved to the US from Pakistan in 2006.
“I wear it because of my religion, but I wear it because I want to,” said Kazim, the other panel member and current vice president of the Muslim Student Association.
Kazim defended her right to wear hjiab as a personal choice.
“No one, not even when I was in Pakistan, made me wear it,” she said.
Gilani confirmed that Islam has long championed women’s rights hundreds of years ago.
“When it comes to the truth of Islam, women can own property, they can marry whomever they want and they do have the right to divorce,” added Gilani.
He added that politicians have resorted to attacking Islam to gain voters in elections.
Such a change was posing a new challenge for Muslims to prove themselves in their local societies.
“People with political agendas can use fear to advance themselves,” he said.
“With that, Muslims seem to have to prove themselves.”
US Muslims have been sensing a growing hostility following a hearing presented by representative Peter King on what he described as “radicalization” of US Muslims.
Lawmakers in at least 13 states have introduced proposals forbidding local judges from considering Shari`ah when rendering verdicts on issues of divorces and marital disputes.
Recently, a Republican Missouri lawmaker described Islam as a disease like polio while another Alaska Rep. branded Muslims as ‘occupiers’ of American neighborhoods.
Condemning repeated attacks, the grassroots Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called last March on GOP to end fear mongering campaigns targeting Islam, urging all moderate lawmakers to stand up to the US anti-discrimination principles.
Attending the event, Richard G. Watts, who described himself as a “retired Christian minister”, said he hoped to overcome Muslims’ stereotyping in America.
He said he hoped it was “only a matter of time” until Muslim stereotypes cease and hopes more people would get involved in the dialogue.
“I would like to see a day where a program like this is announced and the room is full,” said Watts.
You must realize that it is the ordinary way of God’s dealings with us that our ideas do not work out speedily and efficiently as we would like them to. The reason for this is not only the loving wisdom of God, but also the fact that our acts have to fit into a great complex pattern that we cannot possibly understand. I have learned over the years that Providence is always a whole lot wiser than any of us, and that there are always not only good reasons, but the very best reasons for the delays and blocks that often seem to us so frustrating and absurd.
– Thomas Merton
Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari, SunniPath Academy Teacher
Is it permissible for Muslim women to seek education in medicine in a non-Muslim environment where non-Muslim men do not lower their gazes?
In the Name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful.
I pray this message finds you in the best of health and iman. Thank you for your question.
The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Seeking knowledge is encumbent on every Muslim.” [Ibn Majah]
As Muslims, we are required to learn what is necessary to make our faith and worship valid, sound and proper.
According to Reliance of the Traveller, a book of Sacred Law according to the school of Imam al-Shafi’i, there are three types of knowledge.
The first type, personally obligatory knowledge, is required of every Muslim male and female who has reached puberty and is of sound mind.
Personally obligatory knowledge includes knowing the basic tenets of faith, such as the attributes of Allah Most High, His Oneness, His transcendence and His absolute dissimilarity to created things. One must also affirm the fact that Allah Ta’ala sent prophets and messengers, and that Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, was the Seal of Prophethood. One must believe in the books of Allah, the angels, divine decree, and the Last Day.
In matters of worship, one is required to know enough to make one’s prayer, fasting, charity, and pilgrimage valid, sound and proper.
In matters of interpersonal relationships and business dealings, one is required to know what makes these relationships valid and invalid. For example, if one is seeking to marry, then one should learn the rulings of marriage and divorce and understand the scope of one’s obligations to one’s spouse.
The second type of knowledge is communally obligatory. If some members of the community undertake this responsibility, then the obligation of seeking this knowledge is lifted from the rest.
However, if no one seeks this type of knowledge, then the entire community is accountable. Examples of communally obligatory knowledge include specialized disciplines of Sacred Law such as Qur’an memorization, hadith classification, the science of methodological principles, and Arabic grammar.
Reliance specifically mentions,
“As for learning which is not Sacred Knowledge but is required to sustain worldly existence, such as medicine and mathematics, it too is a communal obligation.” [Reliance, a5.2]
The third type of knowledge is recommended. It is the type of knowledge which extends beyond the communally obligatory and involves, for example, “in-depth research into the bases of evidence…” [Reliance, a6.1]
To reiterate, learning medicine is considered a communal obligation. What this means in your case, dear sister, is that some members of the Muslim community must seek this knowledge, otherwise the entire community is remiss.
With so many Muslim communities widely dispersed across North America, each community should, ideally, have individuals who are pursuing this type of knowledge. As Muslims, we have a responsibility to serve our own communities, as well as the society at large.
In your case, if you truly feel that there is a need in your community for a Muslim woman physician, then, by all means, you should pursue your goals. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the Muslim community is in serious need of sisters who are in the health care professions, including — but not limited to –doctors, midwives, nurses, psychiatrists, therapists, and natural practitioners.
Another very important consideration is that Sacred Law requires persons seeking medical treatment to be treated by same-sex health care providers. Many Muslim sisters end up going to male doctors because there are simply no female doctors available. In some cases, cultural taboos restrict women from going into higher education, thus further contributing to the lack of qualified female health care professionals.
Specifically, Reliance tell us,
“A Muslim woman needing medical attention must be treated by a Muslim woman doctor, or if there is none, then by a non-Muslim woman doctor. If there is none, then a male Muslim doctor may treat her, while if none of the above are available, then a male non-Muslim doctor.” [Reliance, m2.10]
On to the issue of lowering the gaze:
Lowering the gaze is an injunction from Allah Ta’ala to believing men and women. [Surat an-Nur, 24:30-31]
As far as non-believers are concerned, one must deal with them with the same etiquette as when one deals with believers. This means lowering one’s gaze even if they do not reciprocate. This also means refraining from idle conversation, which is a common occurrence in mixed-gender settings, and, when unchecked, can lead to innuendo and flirtation.
For sisters especially, it is best to exercise caution when dealing with non-Muslim men. Be aware of your surroundings and your environment. If someone makes you uncomfortable, leave the room or put some distance between you.
Know your rights in the workplace. You don’t have to tolerate sexually suggestive or explicit language being used in your presence. Likewise, you don’t have to put with people denigrating your religion or religious practices.
The most important point is to maintain professionalism. Be courteous to those around you. Hopefully, if you develop a respectful professional relationship, then it will be easier to educate others about various aspects of Islamic etiquette.
Finally, remember the example of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, who was the most excellent of us in conduct.
Lowering one’s gaze and refraining from idle conversation does not give one the license to be discourteous. Rather, one should observe the limits of gender interaction, while maintaining a polite, pleasant demeanor. Remember that one’s behavior can be powerful da’wah.
And Allah alone knows best.
The quake last night was nothing personal,
you told me this morning. I think one always wonders,
unless, of course, something is visible: tremors
that take us, private and willy-nilly, are usual.
But the earth said last night that what I feel,
you feel; what secretly moves you, moves me.
One small, sensuous catastrophe
makes inklings letters, spelled in a worldly tremble.
The earth, with others on it, turns in its course
as we turn toward each other, less than ourselves, gross,
mindless, more than we were. Pebbles, we swell
to planets, nearing the universal roll,
in our conceit even comprehending the sun,
whose bright ordeal leaves cool men woebegone.
Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari, SunniPath Academy Teacher
In the Name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful.
I pray that this message finds you in good health and spirits.
Thank you for your sensitivity to issues of social etiquette. This is an important question.
First of all, please don’t be overwhelmed. Islam’s social structure, particularly in the area of gender relations, might appear very complicated. However, in reality, if you just stick to a few basic rules, then you should have no problem interacting with Muslims.
1. Greetings and phrases:
You are free to use any greeting you wish. Some non-Muslims like to use the Muslim greeting of peace when interacting with Muslims. If you would like to try this, just keep in mind that some Muslims are surprised to hear salaams from non-Muslims, and might not respond automatically. Others, however, will have no problem with this.
Ultimately, use whatever greeting you are comfortable with.
I can’t think of any particular phrases or expressions to avoid. Consider the way you would speak to someone with whom you are getting acquainted. Normally, you would avoid overly familiar or casual speech. I think this is a rule that would apply to everyone, no matter their religion.
2. Taboo topics:
Again, the context is important. When I studied Islam in Syria, the Shaykh (religious scholar) who founded our school, Ahmad Kuftaro (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him), spoke frequently about the concept of hikma, or wisdom. He defined wisdom as the ability to do what is appropriate at the time when it is appropriate, and in the manner that is appropriate. He said that this was the hallmark of the Prophetic Sunna, the living tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace.
Muslims try to apply this concept of wisdom to their social interactions, particularly with members of the opposite sex.
If you are conversing with Muslims, and especially with Muslim women, then you will want to steer clear of topics that are antithetical to a pious Muslim life, such as premarital or extramarital sex, drinking, drugs, partying, etc. I bring these things up because I have been in situations where non-Muslim classmates have revealed details of their lives that I would rather not have heard. A good rule of thumb is this: is this a topic you would want your little sister discussing with a guy? If not, then it’s better to avoid it.
Again, the only customs to observe when interacting with Muslim women (and I’m assuming that you’re male) are to avoid shaking the women’s hands or making any sort of physical contact. Observant Muslims avoid the sort of casual physical contact with the opposite sex to which we’re accustomed here in America, such as shaking hands, hugging, etc.
Also, in terms of eye contact, you’ll notice that observant Muslims will avoid staring at members of the opposite sex. This lowering of the gaze facilitates modesty and respect for the other person and shouldn’t be interpreted as a lack of confidence or unfriendliness.
To conclude, gender etiquette among Muslims is not as complicated as you might think. As long as you avoid explicit or suggestive conversation, don’t make physical contact, and maintain a respectful and modest demeanor, then interacting with Muslims of the opposite sex should not be a problem.
And Allah knows best.
Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari, SunniPath Academy Teacher
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Praise be to Allah and may Allah’s peace and blessings be on the Messenger
I pray this message finds you in good health and spirits.
Although your situation might appear to present a dilemma, from an outsider’s point of view, it seems that there are some promising and entirely feasible solutions.
1. On praying istikhara:
This is not a difficult prayer to make. There are plenty of places where you can purchase dua books. All good dua books contain the major Sunna supplications like istikhara. You should obtain a copy of Reflections of Pearls, available at whitethreadpress.com.
To make istikhara, all you do is make a good ablution, then pray two raka’at of voluntary prayer, then remain on your prayer rug, praise Allah, invoke peace and blessings on the Messenger, and then say the special dua of istikhara. Complete instructions on how to perform Salat al-Istikhara, or the Guidance Prayer, are available right here at SunniPath: Istikhara: The Guidance Prayer.
You do not need to learn the dua by heart. Simply make your two raka’at, then read the dua from the book, or print out the instructions from SunniPath.
2. On women in the workforce:
There is nothing wrong with a woman’s going out and working. If a woman has male relatives to provide for her, then, in general, it is better for her to stay home. However, even this ruling has its details. For example, many women are providing critical services to the community, so as long as they are observing the limits of Sacred Law, then their going out is permissible.
Your situation is very different. In your case, you should go out and work because you don’t have any male relatives to provide for you. Even more importantly, you have an elderly mother. It doesn’t sound entirely prudent to try to eke out a living on your deceased father’s pension, when you have the skills and ability to work. This leads me to my next point.
3. On the obligation to support parents:
If our parents don’t have the means to support themselves, or if they’re elderly, then the Shariah requires us to support them.
You are all your mother has, so why wouldn’t you work? As long as the work you do is within the boundaries of the Shariah and doesn’t compromise your dignity, then it is completely permissible to work. Moreover, there is great blessing in work which is done with one’s own hands. And there is immense reward both in this world and the Hereafter in providing for one’s family members.
Think of the satisfaction you will have as you provide financial security for both yourself and your elderly mother.
And do see the following “Fiqh of financially supporting one’s parents and other relatives.”
4. On missing prayers if one goes out:
Why assume that you will miss your prayers if you get a job? Plenty of Muslims successfully pray on the job, and there’s no reason to assume that you can’t. If you do miss a prayer, then you make tauba (repentance), make up the prayer, and keep on going.
I pray that Allah Ta’ala facilitates the best solution for you and your mother.
A peels an apple, while B kneels to God,
C telephones to D, who has a hand
On E’s knee, F coughs, G turns up the sod
For H’s grave, I do not understand
But J is bringing one clay pigeon down
While K brings down a nightstick on L’s head,
And M takes mustard, N drives into town,
O goes to bed with P, and Q drops dead,
R lies to S, but happens to be heard
By T, who tells U not to fire V
For having to give W the word
That X is now deceiving Y with Z,
Who happens just now to remember A
Peeling an apple somewhere far away.
From Gulf Times
By Dr. Sharif Mohammad
Among the most widely believed myths about Islam in the West today is the myth of forcible conversion to Islam.
Many Westerners believe that Islam is so widespread in the world today simply because of a “holy campaign of terror” carried out by the early Muslims to convert non-Muslims to Islam. They believe that non-Muslims were offered the freedom to choose between two things: Islam or death.
During a discussion, a Baptist Minister said: “Muslims tend to kill non-Muslims and anyone who disagrees with them”. In a syndicated column appearing in over 30 papers (on July 23, 1994) entitled, ‘Muslim Persecution of Christians Increasing’ the author blames many Muslim countries for persecuting Christians, then he quotes the Qur’an (which means): “There is no compulsion in religion” [Qur’an 2:256] and ends the quote by rudely writing: “Really?”
How to confront such misconceptions? First, there is no need for us to be apologetic. As Muslims, we should search for the truth and present it as it is. This is how we have been instructed by Allah Almighty (which means): “Say: The truth from your Lord and let him who will believe and let him who will reject” [Qur’an 18:29]
Islam is the religion of the Truth and the Qur’an is the Book which testifies to the Truth; Allah Says (what means): “We sent down the Qur’an in Truth and in Truth has it descended” [Qur’an 17:105]
And (what means): “Put your trust in Allah for you are on the path of the manifest Truth” [Qur’an 27:79]
Therefore, we should ask ourselves first, before we are asked by anyone else: what is the truth? Did Muslims really force others to convert to Islam? Is there any evidence for consistent forcible conversion throughout Islamic history? In fact, there is no such evidence anywhere in the history of Islam. Many distinguished Western historians have attested to this fact — foremost among whom is Sir Thomas W. Arnold in his book, The Preaching of Islam. Similarly authors like, Marshall G. Hodgson, in his book The Venture of Islam, Albert Hourani in his book, A History of the Arab People, Ira Lapidus in his book, History of Islamic Societies, L.S. Starorianos in his book, A Global History: The Human Heritage, and many others have testified to this.
On the contrary, there is substantial evidence that Muslims were often seen as liberators of the oppressed people everywhere.
The question that remains to be answered is: why have so many people chosen Islam in the 1,400 years of its history? Islam has penetrated the Middle East, North Africa, Spain, West Africa, East Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Afghanistan, India, Western China and the Malay Archipelago. In all these regions, Islam replaced so many other well-established religions: Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Paganism and Animism. What are the reasons behind the triumph of Islam over all these religions?
First, Islam is an amazing blend of simplicity and rationality, as Professor Hodgson explains: “Muslims made a personal appeal to people’s religious consciousness. On the level of straight argument, they often put forward the populistic intelligibility of Islam. Muslims commonly ridiculed, in the name of intellectual good sense, the more mythically convoluted teachings of older traditions. This could seem attractively straightforward to people dissatisfied with taking things on faith from a learned priest whose mysteries they could not comprehend.
A single Creator, to be worshipped by each person for himself, based on revelation that had been given to a famous prophet whom millions already acknowledged. This was at once intelligible and plausible.”
The unambiguous and uncompromising belief in the Unity, Greatness and Wisdom of God, the Creator of the universe, is unparalleled among other religions. The French professor Edouard Montet said: “The dogma of the unity of God…has always been proclaimed in the Qur’an with a grandeur, a majesty, an invariable purity and with a note of pure conviction which is hard to find surpassed outside the pale of Islam. A creed so precise, so stripped of all theological complexities and so accessible to the ordinary understanding might be expected to possess and does indeed possess a marvellous power of winning its way into the consciences of men.”
Besides its simple and rational creed, Islam offers an impressive set of rituals, which has gained the admiration and, subsequently, the conversion of many non-Muslims. The second pillar of Islam, Salaah [prayer] has been described as follows by Sir Arnold: “The religion of the Muslim is continuously present with him and, in the daily prayer, manifests itself in a solemn and impressive ritual which cannot leave either the worshipper or the spectator unaffected.”
In addition to the prayers, the other pillars of Islam, Zakaah [alms tax distributed to the poor], Haj (pilgrimage to Makkah), Siyaam (fasting in Ramadan), have always been factors in attracting many hearts to Islam. To this day, one still meets converts who were impressed by the social justice of Islam, brilliantly expressed in the payment of Zakaah, the unique congregation of the Haj and Siyaam. Thus, it is the union of rationalism and Divine rituals that explains the power that Islam has exercised over the hearts and minds of so many people.
Islam simply presents the truth in a tangible form, with the help of a miraculous book: the Qur’an. The marvellous power and beauty of the words of the Qur’an have also been a decisive factor in the conversion of many people to Islam.
The famous Jewish American convert to Islam, Maryam Jameelah, cited the Qur’an as the major factor of her conversion. After a deep study of both the Old Testament and the Qur’an, the contrast between the two scriptures became increasingly evident to her until she firmly believed that the Qur’an was indeed God’s message to the human race.
A conference of Christian missionaries in 1887 was discussing why Islam has almost swept away Christianity from the Middle East. What did Islam offer these people to forsake Christianity for good? One of the missionaries was insightful enough to say the following: “Islam brought out the fundamental dogmas of the Unity and Greatness of God, that He is Mindful and Righteous. It proclaimed the responsibility of man, a future life, a Day of Judgment and stern retribution to fall upon the wicked, and enforced the duties of prayer, alms giving and fasting. It replaced monkishness by manliness; it gave hope to the slave, brotherhood to mankind and recognition to the fundamental facts of human nature.”
The formidable rationalism and clarity of Islam not only led the Christians of the Middle East to forsake Christianity and embrace Islam in the past, it continues to do so with Christians in the West to the present day.
A Muslim sister, from California, who was a practicing Christian and an active member in her nearby Presbyterian church, wrote in her conversion story. She said that in spite of her active affiliation with the church, she always had serious questions about the fundamentals of Christianity, which did not make sense to her. She debated her questions with her friends but they never came up with reasonable answers. The church could not give them answers either, but only told them to “have faith”. All her questions were answered when she took a course about Islam. Listen to her words:
“This class brought back all of the concerns that I had about Christianity. As I learned about Islam, all my questions were answered. All of us are not punished for Adam’s original sin. Adam asked God for forgiveness and our Merciful, Loving God forgave him. God doesn’t require a blood sacrifice in payment for sin. We must sincerely ask for forgiveness and amend our ways. Jesus wasn’t God; he was a prophet like all of the other prophets. This answered all of my questions about the trinity and the nature of Jesus. I found a teaching that put everything in its proper perspective and appealed to my heart and my intellect. It seemed natural. It wasn’t confusing. I had been searching and I had found a place to rest my faith.”
Islam is so strong and so self-assured that it does not need to use force to attract others to it. The moral and intellectual superiority of Islam over all other religions has manifested itself clearly throughout the history of Islam. Despite the ills that Muslims are facing everywhere, Islam continues to be the fastest growing religion on earth. Professor Huston Smith of the MIT in his book, The Religions of Man, says:
“In some areas where Islam and Christianity are competing for converts, Islam is gaining at a rate of 10 to 1.”
Article courtesy: http://www.islamweb.net