Women and Shariah

22 02 2008

A very good discussion on the treatment of women under the shariah following comments by Dr Rowan Williams.

Joan Bakewell (Broadcaster) and Dr Nazreen Nawaz (Muslim activist)

Enjoy with a cup of tea 🙂

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‘If you don’t like it here… go back home’

17 02 2008

I really hate it when I get into discussion with certain people about what being a Muslim means to me… the discussion often concludes with one sentence, and more than often since Dr Rowan William’s comments. ‘If you don’t like it here, go back HOME.’ Go back home, where? I don’t have a ‘back home’. I find this kind of response annoying more than offensive because of ignorance and narrow mindedness involved, and that coming from people depicted as the most progressive and civilised people on earth. I am not shy to discuss what I believe in, and I dont’t have a problem presenting it to people as an alternative way of life, why can’t people do the same? I don’t know.

If we were to explore the idea of going back home, which unlike me, most immigrant Muslims living in the West can do so…would it solve anyones problem? Well, not really. Most Muslim countries which have abundance of resources are run by tyrant despotic rulers installed and supported by the West working to secure those resources for the West. Regimes changes only occur when the Western interests are at risk of being fulfilled, one dictator is simply replaced by another and sometimes at the cost of thousand of innocent lives such as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most problems of the Muslim world, however complex, can sometimes be narrowed down to the presence of these idiot rulers and their puppet regimes working against Islam and Muslims in cahoots with the Western rulers. And when any neo Islamic party termed ‘Islamist’ comes close to power even through fair electoral process, who feels the first itch? Sometimes it seems almost impossible for Muslim world to free itself from the shackles of Imperialism/colonialism and the constant interference from the West to be able to decide its own political destiny.  So what are they suppose to do? Perhaps, it would sound reasonable to send people back home if they were going to bring back their own troops, stop interfering in their lands and allow them to live however they wish to. But that I don’t see happening, not when this hypocritical theory of ‘one law for all’ will soon be applicable to the world.

Regardless of all that, the ‘if you don’t like it here, go back home’ attitude clearly highlights the strength of ideas people hold and their views towards minorities. Muslims are accused of being emotional, ready to explode the minute their faith is questioned, but didn’t those accusers explode with emotions of anger at the speech made by Dr Rowan Williams? Is it understandable for people to react in such way? Isn’t it clear that it is not only some Muslims, but narrow-mindedness, ignorance, intolerance very much prevails in the West too?





Gaza – Fence that fell…

31 01 2008

You don’t feel safe anywhere in the Gaza Strip. It’s dangerous everywhere; Israeli helicopters and F-16s overhead all the time.

The hardest thing is going in the streets of Gaza to find body parts scattered everywhere. So many people have been killed here over the past few days.

We are living under occupation. I’ve been applying to Israel to go to the West Bank – which is part of my country – and I’m not allowed.

MOHAMMED OMER, 23, RAFAH, GAZA STRIP

The Kaa’ba (Qibla) has an over whelming spiritual aspect attached to it, for a Muslim, there is no place more sacred than the holy lands situated in Arabia. Every year millions of Muslims gather and circumambulate (tawaaf) around the holy Kaa’ba or Qibla during the month of Dhul Hijjah and all year around for the ‘Umrah. The Muslims turn towards the same marvelous Qiblah five times a day when performing their daily salah, decorating their living rooms and places of trade with pictures of it, on walls, in miniature design, on calenders, on prayer mats, and the whole of Muslim cola market has thrived upon its name.

But what does the marvelous Ka’ba, its spiritual or historical significance have anything to do with the giant concentration camp which Gaza has been turned into? Consider this:

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, is quoted to have said, when beholding Ka`ba: “How sanctified you are to Allah, however, the blood of a Muslim is more sanctified to Allah than thee!”

The noble Ka’ba symbolises a deep rooted concept, a concept far beyond the psychological and emotional spiritual aspect we long to feel in its presence. Despite the unceasing dictum, most Muslims including myself have not been able to truly conceptualise what the bond of unity based upon a common view of life (Islam) means. I attempted at experiencing this unity and being over whelmed by it rather than the spiritual aspect which comes from being around the ka’ba. ‘It is only made of stones, you will circumumbulate this one and throw stones at the other ones in Jamaraat’, I said to myself during hajj. The spiritual aspect which comes from witnessing thousands of people of different colour, race, height, size… gave me the ‘buzz’, the same kind of buzz experienced by the dancing dervishes which they interpret to be spiritual elevation, though there is no similarity between the two. But the persistent question remains: Is Muslim unity a fanciful concept? an emotional weak bond? or something real and perceivable?

An-Nu`maan Ibn Basheer, may Allah be pleased with him, quotes the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him as saying: “You see the believers as regards their being merciful among themselves and showing love among themselves and being kind to themselves, resembling one body, so that, if any part of the body aches then the whole body shares the pain with sleeplessness (insomnia) and fever.” (Reported by Al-Bukhari)

This body as described by the Prophet of Islam (saw) exists today as we witness the Muslims stand in solidarity across the Muslim world with their brethren in Gaza. Despite the brutal clampdown by the despotic Egyption regime, the Muslims gathered at the Tahrir Sq chanting, “Gaza residents, we are with you night and day”. Muslims also gathered in Algeria, Lebanon, Jordan, Mauritania to call their rulers to aid the Muslims of Gaza and to end their links with the Zionist State.

GAZA (CNN) — There is something almost indescribably exhilarating about suddenly evaporating borders, an almost palpable electricity that pulses through the air.
It was breathtaking to watch as tens of thousands of people poured over what once was a towering Israeli-built iron wall, a seemingly insurmountable barrier between Gaza and the world, now a walkway through which Palestinians strolled into Egypt.

In the days of the Ottoman Empire, there were no borders and no walls across much of what is now the Middle East. You could travel from Baghdad to Jerusalem to Cairo to Tunis without a question asked. Then came the era of the nation state, when Arabs became Egyptian or Iraqi or Tunisian.

But the depth of desire for unity, for freedom of movement in the Arab world remains profound. And you only need cross a border in this region to understand why.  Source

Contemplating upon some of these realities makes me wonder that ‘artificial borders disuniting the Muslims’ theory may not be so far-fetched after all. The moment of unity shared by the two nations separated by an artificial border which once never existed, however brief, it looks incredible. The CNN video shows the barrier being physically removed liberating and uniting the people… imagine if this was to occur throughout the Muslim world.





Going Hajj…

7 12 2007

Assalam Alaikum wrtwbrkt Dear Readers.

Alhamdulilahi Rabil ‘Alameen, a short while ago we have received confirmation from our agent that everything is in order and we will be flying tomorrow to blessed place for the blessed journey. I am so overwhelmed right now as our agent could not confirm our flights in time and we almost accepted we weren’t going. All praise be to my Rabb, everything has fallen in place as we set off tomorrow.

It is my request to anyone reading this to please make Du’a that we are able to complete it and that our Rabb (swt) accepts our actions during Hajj.. insh’Allah. Also to forgive me for any wrongdoings, mistakes and shortcomings. And finally if anyone has any special du’a please let me know as I will write them all down later. Subhan’Allah the last time I went Hajj was 6 years ago, seeing the Ka’ba for the first time right in front of me was amazing experience, my legs were shaking and I had forgotten to make all the dua, insha’Allah I will do better this time 🙂

Please make Du’a for me.

Shukran

“And proclaim (openly announce) to the whole of humankind the Hajj (pilgrimage). They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, they will come from every deep and distant (wide) mountain highway (in order to perform Hajj).” [Al Hajj; 22:27]





Has Islam been Hijacked in the UK?

3 11 2007

Policy Exchange is a center-right think tank based in London. Recently they have published a report entitled: The hijacking of British Islam. Far from an extensive honest research it appears to be an agenda document propagating a campaign against Islam and Muslims in the UK. Policy exchange has previously published reports and researches on similar lines which can be deemed as material spreading hatred towards Muslim members of society. Although they don’t advocate violence, they are hell-bent on taking their hateful extreme version of liberal democracy to the world at the cost of innocent lives…which would inevitably lead to violence and chaos as we see in parts of the world.

The author of the recent report is a Dr. Denis MacEoin, Wikipedia article describes him as:

a novelist and a former lecturer in Islamic studies. His academic specializations are Shi‘ism, Shaykhism, Bábism, and the Bahá’í Faith, on all of which he has written extensively. His novels are written under the pen names Daniel Easterman and Jonathan Aycliffe.

The article also mentions:

In recent years, he has become active in pro-Israel advocacy (hasbara), chiefly in his capacity as a writer. He continues to work on Islamic issues, particularly the development of radical Islam.

I think reports such as these should serve as a wakeup call for the advocates of liberal democracy who are quick to address extremism elsewhere, when they have such dangerous form of extremism growing inside. Perhaps one day we will see the moderate voices condemn these hate-filled extremists from mainstream think tanks and British politics for sake of a peaceful progressive future. I am not counting on it!

The video below contain an interesting interview by Riz Khan (al-Jazeera) with guests from Policy Exchange and the Muslim council of Britain.





14th Century blunder!!

19 07 2007

For the worst of beasts in the sight of Allah are the deaf and the dumb― those who understand not.(Quran 8:22)

It is significant that the desire to create an alternative world, to modify or augment the real world through the act of writing is inimical to the Islamic worldview. The Prophet of Islam (saw) is he who has completed a world-view; thus the word heresy in Arabic is synonymous with the verb ‘to innovate’ or ‘to begin’. Islam views the world as a plenum (full), capable of neither diminishment nor amplification.” Thus Edward Said rationalises the absence of the novel in Arabic literature, in his book Beginnings, intention & method. Said considered novels to be – among other things – “aesthetic objects that fill gaps in an incomplete world”. And according to him, Arabic stories like those in the Arabian nights are merely “ornamental, variations on the world, not completions of it; neither are they… designed to illustrate… ways in which the world can be viewed and changed”.

The Arabic word for ‘beginning’ is al ibitida; for ‘innovation’ is al ibtidaa or al bidaa; and for ‘heretic’ is al mubtadiaa. Many Muslim thinkers agree with Said’s etymological explanation. But can one extend Said’s argument from literature to science, and draw a similar conclusion: that the desire to create an alternative world, to modify or augment the real world through scientific innovation is against the Islamic worldview? On the contrary, the common view is that, Islam emphasises the acquisition of ilm (‘knowledge’) and there is no conflict in the acquisition of new (novel) knowledge and the practice of Islam.

Speaker at a panel discussion on ‘What is holding back science in Muslim countries’, however, has a different opinion. “You are urged to acquire knowledge. Not to create it,” he says. He reasons that Muslims are asked to discover knowledge that is already there, in the Book. They are not urged to create new knowledge outside the Book. Like Said, this speaker refers to Islam’s completed worldview, and uses it to rationalise the absence of a tradition of innovative science.

To these thinkers, though, the distinction between discovery and creation of knowledge is cosmetic. For them, one creates knowledge in that one brings it from unknowing to knowing. One discovers it in the sense that all knowledge belongs to Allah. A secular scientist of my acquaintance uses a similar explanation: knowledge lies in nature; we create models to understand nature; models are creations of the human mind, which in turn is a creation of nature. So one could argue that the mind is actually acquiring knowledge, not creating it from nothing. The two words – acquiring and creating – become mere word play, or a difference in outlook.

So if creating and discovering knowledge come to the same thing, where lies the problem with science and learning in the Muslim world? Perhaps it’s in the method and scope of enquiry that is permitted and encouraged. In an ideal Islamic polity, life is mediated by scripture – the Quran, Sunnah and Hadith, where Sunnah is the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) life, and the Hadith are his narrations and approvals. Muslim life is informed by these sources; no action or information can depart from their prescriptions, everything must subscribe to the perfect worldview in the Quran.

So the critical issue for Muslims is not whether the scriptures ought to be interpreted literally or metaphorically, but whether they allow other worldviews that explain the nature and functioning of the universe. In other words, do they allow exploration beyond the worldview of the Quran?

Today most Muslim countries are far from the world view of the Quran, they enforce a limiting orthodoxy, yet this was not always the case with Muslims. During the heyday of Islam, in the 7-13th centuries AD, the principles of Islamic scriptures were a subject of debate by Muslim thinkers, Ijtihad was a common practice, and the political stability allowed intellectual elevation. In this time Muslims were the main innovators of science, philosophy and medicine in the world. At such crucial time an erroneous decision was made to close the doors of Ijtihad and debate in order for the one particular orthodox view to prevail, without realising the impact. With this, much of the Arab world’s innovation in science and technology came to an end. They generated a fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) based on taqlid (imitation), suppressing the stress on ijtihad -which allowed open inquiry, and other views whether erroneous or valid . They did not reject ijtihad amongst the learned, but they discouraged its application by the public. The loss of the application of ijtihad in law indirectly led to its ebb from philosophy and science. Most historians now think that this caused Muslim societies to stagnate, of which the symbolic moment came in 1492, with the final fall of Muslim Spain.

The regression of Muslim intellectual life continues unabated. Where they lost, the West gained. From current situation, it is clear that the West stands as the dominant power. From the onset of Capitalism, the West experienced the Renaissance and Enlightenment, a period of tremendous scientific and intellectual growth, which culminated in the Industrial Revolution. Similarly, what is often overlooked is that, under the Islamic civilization when Islam was implemented as a system of life and the Shariah was the dominant system, science and technology flourished. This progress came as a result of the ability of the Muslims to understand the relationship between science and Islam. Nowadays, this relationship has been misunderstood because the the term ”science” has become synonymous with progress and advancement, whereas religion is viewed as something backward that stifles progress and is counterproductive to reasoning. In order to promote the idea of Secularism among the masses, the West is attempting to sell the idea that science and knowledge are one and the same, that intellect/knowledge and religion exist in two mutually exclusive spheres, and that scientific and technological progress is a direct result of the Western Capitalist ideology.

It was reported in a hadith that a group of people came to the Prophet (saw) asking him about the pollination of dates. He instructed them not to pollinate the date palms themselves since the wind may carry the seeds. That year there was no harvest; they informed him of this, and he told them, ‘‘You know best regarding your worldly affairs,” referring to scientific research. Also, Imam Muslim reported that the Prophet (saaw) said:

”I am a human being like you, but I receive the revelation. If I instructed you on something related to the Deen, then take it, but if I instructed you on something related to your worldly affairs, then you know best.”

Islam clearly distinguished between the scope of science and technology, which is the lab and the physical universe, and the scope of the Deen, which is the life affairs and the systems governing the relationships and issues that human beings are confronted with. In spite of this distinction, there are so many so called Islamic “Scholars” issuing fatwas on scientific issues based on their understanding of some ayahs and hadiths, such as the rotation and shape of the earth, the atom, the fetus and its development, and many other scientific issues. In addition, many Muslims are busy digging into the Qur’an and the Sunnah for a cure for cancer or diabetes rather than conducting the necessary research in the lab. The problem with such an approach is that those scientific fatwas may become part of the Deen itself, the way it happened with the Church during the European Middle Ages. Such a trend could lead either to not accepting any scientific theory or conclusion unless a fatwa exists supporting it, or a potential conflict between the Deen and science if the scientific research proves the error in any fatwa.

Hundreds of years ago Muslims opted to follow the orthodox teachings based on Taqleed over Ijtihad. Is it now time to review unproductive choices? To reinstate ijtihad over taqleed, and encourage ‘free’ intellectual transgressions over forced containment?