Saturday, July 13, 2013

Ramadan Fasting Challenges Arctic Muslims

OnIslam & Newspapers
Saturday, 13 July 2013 

CAIRO – In a city where the sun never sets, Ramadan fasting is providing an enormous challenge to Muslims in Sweden’s northernmost city of Kiruna where devout Muslims fast from sun up to sun down for a month.

"Kiruna is as high up as you get in .Sweden, the sun never sets during this month," Ali Melhem, 45, who has lived in Kiruna for 24 years told The Local.

"When I first moved here, Ramadan was in the spring."

Sweden’s long summer days are presenting a challenge to Muslims fasting for Ramadan. Read more....

Surah Furqan -- Recited by Mishary Rashid Al Afasy

I am currently reading and listening to Surah Furqan -- Recited by Mishary Rashid Al Afasy

This Ramadan, what has happened to Islam?

By Yasmine Bahrani
McClatchy News Service

This Ramadan I'm praying for a miracle. Islam's holy month began this week, and millions of Muslims everywhere are fasting, reflecting and asking God to answer prayers. Like millions of American Muslims, I will be thinking about the cycle of violence that appears to have taken on a life of its own, and I worry that cycle is unstoppable.

The so-called Arab Spring was thought to mean a new beginning; but the wave of change did not bring freedom and prosperity to the region. Instead two years into this new chapter, people everywhere are fighting one another. In Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood-led administration was overthrown last week, leaving at least 50 people dead. In Iraq and in Lebanon, Sunnis and Shiites trade bombs and insults. In Syria, the Sunni majority is caught in a bloody battle with the minority Alawites. And Shiites are attacked in such faraway places as Pakistan and Indonesia.

What happened to the faith? The answers are complicated, but many religious leaders encourage their followers to shun those different from them. Al-Jazeera TV's Sheik Yousuf al-Qardawi calls Shiites "heretics," clearing the way for Sunnis to harm or even kill them. Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei denies minorities their rights and reportedly prevented the building of a Sunni mosque in Tehran. Read more....

Do you wish to read the Quran in a week? / Month?

For the convenience of people who wish to read the Qur'an in a week the text may be divided into 7 portions, each portion is known as Hizb or Manzil.

The following division to 7 equal portions is by Hamza Al-Zayyat (d.156/772):[*]

1 Al-Fatihah (chapter 1) through An-Nisa' (chapter 4) consisting of 4 chapters.

2 Al-Maida (chapter 5) through At-Tawba (chapter 9) consisting of 5 chapters.

3 Yunus (chapter 10) through An-Nahl (chapter 16) consisting of 7 chapters.

4 Isra' (chapter 17) through Al-Furqan (chapter 25) consisting of 9 chapters.

5 Ash-Shuara' (chapter 26) through Ya-Seen (chapter 36) consisting of 11 chapters.

6 As-Saffat (chapter 37) through Al-Hujarat (chapter 49) consisting of 13 chapters.

7 Qaf (chapter 50) through An-Nass (chapter 114) consisting of 65 chapters.

* See: Jaffer, Abbas (2009). An introduction to Qurʼanic sciences = ʻUlūm al-Qurʼan.

For those who wish to read the entire Quran in a month, below is a listing of the 30 Juz (pl. Ajiza) of the Qur’an, with links to further information about the chapters, verses, and themes of each section of the Holy Book.

  • Juz’ 1 – Al Fatiha 1 – Al Baqarah 141 (1:1-2:141)
  • Juz’ 2 – Al Baqarah 142 - Al Baqarah 252 (2:142-2:252)
  • Juz’ 3 – Al Baqarah 253 - Al Imran 92 (2:253-3:92)
  • Juz’ 4 – Al Imran 93 - An Nisaa 23 (3:93-4:23)
  • Juz’ 5 – An Nisaa 24 - An Nisaa 147 (4:24-4:147)
  • Juz’ 6 – An Nisaa 148 - Al Ma’idah 81 (4:148-5:81)
  • Juz’ 7 – Al Ma’idah 82 - Al An’am 110 (5:82-6:110)
  • Juz’ 8 – Al An’am 111 - Al A’raf 87 (6:111-7:87)
  • Juz’ 9 – Al A’raf 88 - Al Anfal 40 (7:88-8:40)
  • Juz’ 10 – Al Anfal 41 - At Tauba 92 (8:41-9:92)
  • Juz’ 11 – At Tauba 93 - Hud 5 (9:93-11:5)
  • Juz’ 12 – Hud 6 - Yusuf 52 (11:6-12:52)
  • Juz’ 13 – Yusuf 53 – Ibrahim 52 (12:53-14:52)
  • Juz’ 14 – Al Hijr 1 – An Nahl 128 (15:1-16:128)
  • Juz’ 15 – Al Isra (or Bani Isra’il) 1 - Al Kahf 74 (17:1-18:74)
  • Juz’ 16 – Al Kahf 75 – Ta Ha 135 (18:75-20:135)
  • Juz’ 17 – Al Anbiyaa 1 - Al Hajj 78 (21:1-22:78)
  • Juz’ 18 – Al Muminum 1 - Al Furqan 20 (23:1-25:20)
  • Juz’ 19 – Al Furqan 21 - An Naml 55 (25:21-27:55)
  • Juz’ 20 – An Naml 56 - Al Ankabut 45 (27:56-29:45)
  • Juz’ 21 – Al Ankabut 46 - Al Azhab 30 (29:46-33:30)
  • Juz’ 22 – Al Azhab 31 - Ya Sin 27 (33:31-36:27)
  • Juz’ 23 – Ya Sin 28 - Az Zumar 31 (36:28-39:31)
  • Juz’ 24 – Az Zumar 32 - Fussilat 46 (39:32-41:46)
  • Juz’ 25 – Fussilat 47 - Al Jathiya 37 (41:47-45:37)
  • Juz’ 26 – Al Ahqaf 1 - Az Zariyat 30 (46:1-51:30)
  • Juz’ 27 – Az Zariyat 31 - Al Hadid 29 (51:31-57:29)
  • Juz’ 28 – Al Mujadila 1 – At Tahrim 12 (58:1-66:12)
  • Juz’ 29 – Al Mulk 1 - Al Mursalat 50 (67:1-77:50)
  • Juz’ 30 – An Nabaa 1 - An Nas 6 (78:1-114:6)
The following 85 surahs, according to Zarkashi, are of Makkan origin: 

96, 68, 73, 74, 111, 81, 87, 92, 89, 93, 94, 103, 100, 108, 102, 107, 109, 105,  113, 114, 113, 53, 80, 97, 91, 85, 95, 106, 101, 75, 104, 77, 50, 90, 86, 54, 38, 7, 72, 36, 25, 35, 19, 20, 56, 26, 27, 28, 17, 10, 11, 12, 15, 6, 47, 31, 34, 39, 40, 41,42, 43, 44, 45, 45, 51, 88, 18, 71, 14, 21, 23, 32, 52, 67, 69, 70, 78, 79, 82, 84, 30. 

The following 29 surahs, according to Zarkashi, are of Madinan origin:

2, 8, 3 33, 60, 4, 99, 57, 47, 13, 55, 76, 65, 98, 59, 110, 24, 22, 63, 58, 49, 66, 61, 62, 64, 48, 9, 5.

As far as the determination of the Makkan and Madinan surahs are concerned, no statement on this matter has ever been quoted by any sources from the Prophet (pbuh). Abu Bakr Baqillani(d. 403 AH) confines the sources of information on what is Makkan and what is Madinan to the reports of the Companions and the views of scholars from the Tabi’un generation.12 The Companions were eyewitnesses to the revelation of the Qur’an. They knew very well what came down where. 

Moreover, it needs to be appreciated that the basic reason for this classification is that Makkan Surahs portray that part of his life in which the Prophet (pbuh) did not have political authority. Therefore, this period marked is mostly marked with directives that pertain to the individual. On the contrary, the Madinan Surahs depict that part of the Prophet’s life in which he was blessed with political authority and therefore they contain directives with regard to the collectivity. 

Source: Zarkashi, Burhan, 2nd ed., vol. 1, Pages 247-50 (Beirut: Daru’l-Fikr, 1980)

Ramadan Journal -- Day 4 --- Yawma alfasl

by S. N. Smith

In the Quran, Allah uses many terms to refer to the Day of Judgement. One of them is yawma alfasl-- the Day of Sorting out. 

Allah says in Surah An Nabah, إِنَّ يَوْمَ الْفَصْلِ كَانَ مِيقَاتًا --"Verily the Day of Sorting out (yawma alfasli) is a thing appointed." (78:6-17)

Also, Allah says in Surah Ad-Dukhan, -- إِنَّ يَوْمَ الْفَصْلِ مِيقَاتُهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ --- "Verily the Day of sorting out (yawma alfasli) is the time appointed for all of them." (44:34-40)

And in Surah As-Saffaat, Allah says, هَـٰذَا يَوْمُ الْفَصْلِ الَّذِي كُنتُم بِهِ تُكَذِّبُونَ -- (A voice will say,) "This is the Day of Sorting Out (yawma alfasli), whose truth ye (once) denied!" (37:21)

In addition, in Surah al Mursalat Allah says, هَـٰذَا يَوْمُ الْفَصْلِ ۖ جَمَعْنَاكُمْ وَالْأَوَّلِينَ -- "That will be a Day of Sorting out (yawma alfasli)! We shall gather you together and those before (you)!" (77:38) Also, in the same Surah, Allah says, لِيَوْمِ الْفَصْلِ وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا يَوْمُ الْفَصْلِ -- "For the Day of Sorting out (yawma alfasli) And what will explain to thee what is the Day of Sorting out? (yawma alfasli)." (Verses 13-14)

The triliteral root fā ṣād lām (ف ص ل) occurs 43 times in the Quran, in nine derived forms. I don't want to go into all that here as I am not qualified to do so. What I want talk about is the term yawma alfasl and what does it mean. The word fasala is a verb and means to separate or sort out. Fasl is a noun and means separation. It can also refer to something that is final or complete, as Allah says in Surah Ash-Shura, أَمْ لَهُمْ شُرَكَاءُ شَرَعُوا لَهُم مِّنَ الدِّينِ مَا لَمْ يَأْذَن بِهِ اللَّهُ ۚ وَلَوْلَا كَلِمَةُ الْفَصْلِ لَقُضِيَ بَيْنَهُمْ ۗ وَإِنَّ الظَّالِمِينَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ ---"Or have they other deities who have ordained for them a religion to which Allah has not consented? But if not for the decisive word, (kalimatu alfasli) it would have been concluded between them. And indeed, the wrongdoers will have a painful punishment." 

So, this yawma alfasl is a time in which a sorting and separation will take place. Believers will be separated from non-believers and people will be sorted and separated according to their deeds. Furthermore, the decision by Allah will be final and cannot be appealed, as the term Yawma alfasl indicates. 

On this, the 4th day of the Ramadan fast, I invite you, as well as myself, to think about this term and ask ourselves what we are doing to prepare for this day when the judgement of Allah will be final and cannot be appealed. And Allah says in Surah al-Muhminoon, أَفَحَسِبْتُمْ أَنَّمَا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ عَبَثًا وَأَنَّكُمْ إِلَيْنَا لَا تُرْجَعُونَ -- "Did ye then think that We had created you in Jest, and that ye would not be brought back to Us (for account)?" (23:115)

In an authentically agreed upon hadeeth, it was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “When Ramadan comes, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are put in chains.” 

May Allah make it easy for each and every one of us to perform good deeds and avoid evil during this month of blessing. May this month be a means by which we prepare for the day when we stand before our Rub and give an account of what we have done during our brief time here on earth. And Allah says in Surah al Isra, يَوْمَ نَدْعُو كُلَّ أُنَاسٍ بِإِمَامِهِمْ ۖ فَمَنْ أُوتِيَ كِتَابَهُ بِيَمِينِهِ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ يَقْرَءُونَ كِتَابَهُمْ وَلَا يُظْلَمُونَ فَتِيلً  -- "One day We shall call together all human beings with their (respective) Imams: those who are given their record in their right hand will read it (with pleasure), and they will not be dealt with unjustly in the least." (111:17)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Some nice Ramadan photos

Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, began earlier this week, with the observation of the Hilal, or new moon. Throughout this ninth month on the Islamic calendar, devout Muslims must abstain from food, drink, and sex from dawn until sunset. The fast, one of the five pillars of Islam, is seen as a time for spiritual reflection, prayers, and charity. After sunset, Muslims traditionally break the fast by eating three dates, performing the Maghrib prayer, and sitting down to Iftar, the main evening meal, where communities and families gather together. Gathered here are images of Muslims around the world observing Ramadan this year, including areas of recent turmoil, like Egypt and Turkey. [Click here to see 33 photos]

Malala Yousafzai addresses United Nations Youth Assembly

United Nations, New York, 12 July 2013 - Education activist Malala Yousafzai marks her 16th birthday, on Friday, 12 July 2013 at the United Nations by giving her first high-level public appearance and statement on the importance of education. 

 Malala became a public figure when she was shot by the Taliban while travelling to school last year in Pakistan -- targeted because of her committed campaigning for the right of all girls to an education. Flown to the United Kingdom to recover, she is now back at school and continues to advocate for every child's right to education. 

 In support of the UN Secretary-General's Global Education First Initiative (GEFI), on 12 July -- declared as "Malala Day" -- the President of the UN General Assembly and the UN Special Envoy for Global Education with the support of A World at School initiative are organizing the UN Youth Assembly, where more than 500 young leaders from around the world will convene to accelerate the goal of getting all children, especially girls, in school and learning by 2015.

How To Begin Reading And Understanding An Arabic Book in 21 Days

Don’t You Wish You Could Understand The Qur'an Directly? 

In Arabic? 

Without Translation? 

Free Video Series Reveals 80/20 Secret.

Surah Al-Noor -- recited by Sheikh Ahmed bin Ali Al-Ajmi

I am currently reading and listening to Surah Al-Noor -- recited by Sheikh Ahmed bin Ali Al-Ajmi

Ramadan Journal -- Day 3

by S.N. Smith

Today, I read Surah al Mohminoon. In the opening 11 ayat of this Surah Allah says:

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ
الَّذِينَ هُمْ فِي صَلَاتِهِمْ خَاشِعُونَ
وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنِ اللَّغْوِ مُعْرِضُونَ
وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ لِلزَّكَاةِ فَاعِلُونَ
وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ لِفُرُوجِهِمْ حَافِظُونَ
إِلَّا عَلَىٰ أَزْوَاجِهِمْ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُمْ فَإِنَّهُمْ غَيْرُ مَلُومِينَ
فَمَنِ ابْتَغَىٰ وَرَاءَ ذَ‌ٰلِكَ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْعَادُونَ
وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ لِأَمَانَاتِهِمْ وَعَهْدِهِمْ رَاعُونَ
وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَلَىٰ صَلَوَاتِهِمْ يُحَافِظُونَ
أُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْوَارِثُونَ
الَّذِينَ يَرِثُونَ الْفِرْدَوْسَ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ

Translation: "Successful indeed are the believers, Who are humble in their prayers, Who avoid vain talk; Who are active in deeds of charity; And who guard their private parts, Except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess,- for (in their case) they are free from blame, But those whose desires exceed those limits are transgressors;-Those who faithfully observe their trusts and their covenants; And who (strictly) guard their prayers;-These will be the heirs, Who will inherit Paradise: they will dwell therein (for ever)."

The term قَدْ أَفْلَحَ -- Qad aflaha (a verb) -- in ayat number one is translated into the English as "successful." The term is also mentioned in 20:64; 87:14 and 91:9.  As is evident from these ayat, Allah is quite clear what He means for one to be successful. This runs counter to our human understanding of success which is usually tied to wealth, status and other worldly achievements. But these things, as Allah notes in many places, are only given to us as a test and are temporary. We may enjoy them momentarily but eventually all of it will be taken away. But those who are truly Qad aflaha will posses certain characteristics which are outlined in these first 11 ayat of  Surah al Mohminoon. They show humility in their prayers, avoid vain talk, are continually giving in charity, avoid sexual immorality, keep their word and don't go back on it and guard their prayers by performing them regularly and on time. These are those whom Allah considers to be Qad aflaha for they will be given the ultimate reward, paradise, which lasts for all eternity.

The other term Allah uses is الْمُفْلِحُونَ --almuflihoon (a noun in the plural).  The term shows up several times in the Quran including: 2:5; 3:104; 7:8; 7:157; 9:88; 23:102 24:51 30:38; 31:5 and 58:22. Allah says in ayat 118 of Surah al Mohminoon فَمَن ثَقُلَتْ مَوَازِينُهُ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ --"Then as for him whose good deeds are preponderant, these are the successful."  This is contrasted in the next ayat (119) with the term  الَّذِينَ خَسِرُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ -- allatheena khasiroo anfusahum -- "those who have lost their souls."  The full verse reads, وَمَنْ خَفَّتْ مَوَازِينُهُ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ خَسِرُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ فِي جَهَنَّمَ خَالِدُونَ -- "But those whose balance is light, will be those who have lost their souls, in Hell will they abide."

In this, the third day of Ramadan, we need to ask ourselves if we demonstrate these characteristics and, if not, seek to make a clear resolution to correct ourselves so that we too can be Qad aflaha and almuflihoon, the truly successful. This is the time to increase our good deeds to the best of our ability so that we will not be amoung those who who are  الَّذِينَ خَسِرُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ -- allatheena khasiroo anfusahum -- "those who have lost their souls." 

At Friday prayer today the Imam spoke about the following Ramadan Khutbah delivered by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) which was recorded in the Musnad of Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal. This khutbah is filled with a lot of gems so, in closing, I want to share it with you:  

O People! The month of Allah (Ramadan) has come with its mercies, blessings and forgiveness. Allah has decreed this month the best of all months. The days of this month are the best among the days and the nights are the best among the nights and the hours during Ramadan are the best among the hours. 
This is a month in which you have been invited by Him (to fast and pray). Allah has honoured you in it. In every breath you take is a reward of Allah, your sleep is worship, your good deeds are accepted and your invocations are answered. 
Therefore, you must invoke your Lord in all earnestness with hearts free from sin and evil, and pray that Allah may help you to keep fast, and to recite the Holy Qur'an. Indeed! Miserable is the one who is deprived of Allah's forgiveness in this great month. 
While fasting remember the hunger and thirst on the Day of Judgement. Give alms to the poor and needy. Pay respect to your elders, have sympathy for your youngsters and be kind towards your relatives and kinsmen. Guard your tongue against unworthy words, and your eyes from scenes that are not worth seeing (forbidden) and your ears from sounds that should not be heard. Be kind to orphans so that if your children may become orphans they will also be treated with kindness. 
Do repent to Allah for your sins and supplicate with raised hands at the times of prayer as these are the best times, during which Allah Almighty looks at His servants with mercy. Allah Answers if they supplicate, responds if they call, grants if He is asked, and accepts if they entreat. 
O people! You have made your conscience the slave of your desires. Make it free by invoking Allah for forgiveness. Your back may break from the heavy load of your sins, so prostrate yourself before Allah for long intervals, and make this load lighter. Understand fully that Allah has promised in His Honour and Majesty that, people who perform Salat and Sajda (prostration) will be guarded from Hell-fire on the Day of Judgement. 
O people! If anyone amongst you arranges for Iftar (meal at sunset) for any believer, Allah will reward him as if he had freed a slave, and Allah will forgive him his sins." A companion said: 'but not all of us have the means to do so,' to which the Prophet (S) replied: 'Keep yourself away from Hell-fire though it may consist of half a date or even some water if you have nothing else.' 
O people! Anyone who, during this month cultivates good manners, will walk over the Sirat (bridge to Paradise) on the day when feet will tend to slip. For anyone who during this month eases the workload of his servants, Allah will make easy his accounting, and for anyone who doesn't hurt others during this month, Allah will safeguard him from His Wrath on the Day of Judgement. Anyone who respects and treats an orphan with kindness during this month, Allah shall look at him with kindness on that Day. Anyone who treats his kinsmen well during this month, Allah will bestow His Mercy on him on that Day, while anyone who mistreats his kinsmen during this month, Allah will keep away from His Mercy. 
Whomever offers the recommended prayers during this month, Allah will save him from Hell, and whomever observes his obligations during this month, his reward will be seventy times the reward during other months. Whomever repeatedly invokes Allah's blessings on me, Allah will keep his scale of good deeds heavy, while the scales of others will be tending to lightness. Whomever recites during this month an Ayaat (verse) of the Qur'an, will get the reward of reciting the whole Qur'an in other months. 
O people! The gates of Paradise remain open during this month. Pray to your Lord that they may not be closed for you; while the gates of Hell are closed, pray to your Lord that they never open for you. Satan has been chained, invoke your Lord not to let him dominate you." 
Ali ibn Talib (Radhi Allahu 'Anh) said: "I asked, 'O Messenger of Allah, what are the best deeds during this month?'" He replied: 'O Abu-Hassan, the best of deeds during this month is to be far from what Allah has forbidden.'

Edward Snowden

I don't know if Edward Snowden will ever get off the ground in Russia. Although Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia have said they would be willing to grant him asylum, could he fly from Moscow to any of the Latin American countries without passing through the airspace of the US or allied countries? The plane would most assuredly be forced down. The ironic thing in all of this is that the real criminal here is the US government and Snowden is actually upholding the interests of the people by protecting their privacy, but is being demonized and criminalized for doing so. He has been charged with with espionage and theft of government property. Human Rights Watch notes,
The law often criminalizes the disclosure of secrets by employees or agents of a government. But international law recognizes that revealing official secrets is sometimes justified in the public interest. In particular it may be necessary to expose and protect against serious human rights violations, including overreaching or unjustifiable surveillance. International principles on national security whistleblowers outline various circumstances under which governments should protect people from punishment if they disclose information of public concern.
As Snowden noted in a recent letter to Human Rights Watch, "The scale of threatening behaviour is without precedent: never before in history have states conspired to force to the ground a sovereign president's plane to effect a search for a political refugee", referring to the denial of airspace by a number of European countries to Bolivian President Evo MoralesBrazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela, on Friday decided to call their representatives in Spain, France, Italy and Portugal for consultations over the incident. 

Live updates from Human Rights Watch on this topic can be read here

Paying Expiation and Not Fasting Due to a Chronic Illness

Question: I have a long term stomach ailment which prevents me from eating properly, the result of which is that I have a very low BMI (approximately 15.9). Also I am currently unemployed and have not been able to find a stable job for the last 5 years and I am in a very weak state financially. Also I owe money as a result of student loans.

1. Do I need to fast? – I fasted last year, and lost approximately 4lb in weight, which to the best of my knowledge I have not put back on again.

2. If I don’t fast what are my options? – I don’t feel that I have enough money to pay the expiation i.e. to feed a poor person by current standards of my location for every fast missed, as I myself am not able to eat to that standard as a norm.

3. I did not fast in 2011 and paid expiation, but in 2012 by the mercy of Allah I managed to make up for 10 of those fasts. Alhamdulillah! I’m considering fasting this year and making up for another 10 fasts, but would such an action be permissible if it could cause me harm? I keep on thinking to myself that I should have Imaan in Allah and fulfil my obligation and If I do this i.e. have Imaan then no harm will come to me and Inshallah I will earn the good pleasure of Allah — are these the thoughts of a sound rational mind? — or should I follow the advice of my doctor and not fast?

Patrons and the Patronized: how to understand the new Middle East

By Haroon Moghul

There are two kinds of countries in the Middle East. Not Sunni or Shi'a. Not Muslim or not-Muslim. Not Islamist or secular. Not even democratic or authoritarian. There are the “Patrons” and the “Patronized,” and if that sounds patronizing -- well, it's meant to. We begin with the Egyptian coup, which sparked a visceral reaction in my corner of Twitterstan. Most vehement and most concerned, it seemed, were Pakistanis and Turks, who understood that democracy by other means is not democracy. Perhaps in the pre-Ramadan spirit, they wished for their brotherly country what they wished for themselves. But many Egyptians responded to this concern with an emphatic "mind your own business." 

 That's regrettable, because Pakistan and Turkey offer relevant lessons. That's also peculiar, because the Arab world's biggest country has been in decline at least since the 1960s; in the decades since it was not Islamists but secular and pseudo-nationalist military strongmen who tightly held the reins of power and rode the state into a ditch. Why then turn to the military to solve your problems, when it has caused most of them? 

Turkey has always been a stronger state -- governmentally and bureaucratically speaking -- but Pakistan and Turkey offer their own relevant experiences. Turkey suggests the promise and potential of a gradual opening to democracy, while Pakistan sends warning shots. Read more.....

Chris Hedges - The State of Journalism

What I Learned About Ramadan – By Not Fasting

Posted by: Abez

I missed all but five fasts last Ramadan, and if this sounds like a shocking confession, you might want to try a survey of women to see how many of them have fasts to make up.  Many young mothers struggle to make up dozens -if not hundreds- of fasts missed in the alternating cycles of pregnancy and breastfeeding.  There are also people with medical conditions that prevent them from fasting entirely, and last year I was a little bit of both. Read more.....

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ramadan Journal -- Day 2

S. N. Smith

As I write these words it is about 20 minutes before ifar on this 2nd day of Ramadan. When one is outside of Ramadan it almost seems impossible to even imagine fasting this long without food or drink. But once Ramadan starts it seems that Allah gives the fasting person an added resolve and strength so that what once seemed impossible now seems almost easy. I am sure there is a lesson in there somewhere.

I have kept myself busy with signing up for a free online Islamic course  as well as listening to a daily lecture series on Surah Taha offered by Abdul Nasir Jangda. I am also going through the Quran via youtube and just finished reading and listening to Surah Al-Hajj recited by Mishary bin Rashid Al-Afasy. Finally, I am watching a series of mini-lectures -- averaging 8 to 10 minutes in length - on a variety of topics from this website. I am thankful for all of this free material being offered. One has to sift through a lot of websites to find reliable material, and I am quite selective. 

Someone wrote on twitter today, "Ramadan is not a temporary increase of religious practice, it is a glimpse of what you are capable of doing everyday." I feel this is so true, but sadly we, as a species, possess little resolve. 

Finally, my wife made made some sweet bread tonight with a new recipe that was given to her from her niece. That is a photo of them at the top of this blog post. That is black and sesame seeds on top. I am about to bite into them in a few moments. 

Happy iftar everyone!

Surat Al Muminun (Quran chapter 23) recited by Saad Al Ghamdi

I am currently reading and listening to Surat Al Muminun (Quran chapter 23) recited by Saad Al Ghamdi

Ask them

قُلْ أَرَأَيْتُم مَّا تَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ أَرُونِي مَاذَا خَلَقُوا مِنَ الْأَرْضِ أَمْ لَهُمْ شِرْكٌ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ ۖ ائْتُونِي بِكِتَابٍ مِّن قَبْلِ هَـٰذَا أَوْ أَثَارَةٍ مِّنْ عِلْمٍ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ

Ask them: “Have you reflected on those whom you worship besides God? Show me what have they created on this earth or do they have a share in the heavens? Bring me a scripture revealed before this, or some other vestige of divine knowledge, if what you say is true.” (46:4)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Dealings and Practices of God -- with Dr Shehzad Saleem

Surah Al-Hajj (Quran chapter 22) recited by Mishary bin Rashid Al-Afasy

I am currently reading and listening to Surah Al-Hajj (Quran chapter 22) recited by Mishary bin Rashid Al-Afasy

Surah Al Anbiya [Quran chapter 21]recited by Abdul Rahman Al Sudais

I am currently reading and listening to Surah Al Anbiya [Quran chapter 21]recited by Abdul Rahman Al Sudais

My Ramadan Journal: Day 1 -- water

“Of hunger and thirst, thirst is the greater imperative.” ― Yann Martel, Life of Pi

See intro to my Ramadan blog here.

Today, on this first day of fasting, I want to write about water. Allah says in the Quran:

أَوَلَمْ يَرَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَنَّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ كَانَتَا رَتْقًا فَفَتَقْنَاهُمَا ۖ وَجَعَلْنَا مِنَ الْمَاءِ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ حَيٍّ ۖأَفَلَا يُؤْمِنُونَ

"Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were joined together as one united piece, then We parted them? And We have made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?" (Quran 21:30)


وَهُوَ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَخْرَجْنَا بِهِ نَبَاتَ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ فَأَخْرَجْنَا مِنْهُ خَضِرًا نُّخْرِجُ مِنْهُ حَبًّا مُّتَرَاكِبًا وَمِنَ النَّخْلِ مِن طَلْعِهَا قِنْوَانٌ دَانِيَةٌ وَجَنَّاتٍ مِّنْ أَعْنَابٍ وَالزَّيْتُونَ وَالرُّمَّانَ مُشْتَبِهًا وَغَيْرَ مُتَشَابِهٍ ۗ انظُرُوا إِلَىٰ ثَمَرِهِ إِذَا أَثْمَرَ وَيَنْعِهِ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَ‌ٰلِكُمْ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُون

"It is He Who sends down water (rain) from the sky, and with it We bring forth vegetation of all kinds, and out of it We bring forth green stalks, from which We bring forth thick clustered grain. And out of the date-palm and its spathe come forth clusters of dates hanging low and near, and gardens of grapes, olives and pomegranates, each similar (in kind) yet different (in variety and taste). Look at their fruits when they begin to bear, and the ripeness thereof. Verily! In these things there are signs for people who believe." (6:99)

Besides the above verses, listen to this short video of select verses from the Quran regarding water

Water is the source of all life and without it we would all perish. I am reminded once again just how precious water is during these long days of fasting. I otherwise take water for granted and can, without even thinking about it, turn on my tap and drink fresh, clean water at any time with little effort. But this is not the case for millions of people in this world. In fact, approximatley 800 million people in the world lack access to clean water. Yes, that is 2.5 times the population of the United States, or 1 in 9 people on the planet. 

Consider these facts

* More than 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes. Nearly all deaths, 99 percent, occur in the developing world. 

* Lack of access to clean water and sanitation kills children at a rate equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing every four hours. 

* Of the 60 million people added to the world's towns and cities every year, most move to informal settlements (i.e. slums) with no sanitation facilities. 

* The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns. 

* More people have a mobile phone than a toilet. 

* An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the average person in a developing country slum uses for an entire day. 

You may want to read this wikipedia entry on water scarcity to get a bigger picture of the water crisis facing the planet. You can also google the term "water scarcity" to find even more information on this important topic. In particular, take a look at the plight of the Palestinian people with regards to this problem

I write these words, not so much to demonstrate any knowledge I have on this vast topic, but to acknowledge the favor of Allah on me that I live in a place in which I have continual access to fresh, clean water. And I appreciate this tremendous blessing even more during these long, hot days of fasting when my mouth becomes parched and I feel a bit of weakness in my body due to dehydration. 

In a hadeeth, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) admonished his followers “Look at those below you [less fortunate], and don’t look at those above you [more fortunate]–for this is better.” (Source: Muslim, Tirmidhi, and Ibn Maja])We tend to look at people more fortunate than ourselves, which makes us feel bad and dissatisfied about our lot in life and we become filled with envy and bitterness. By paying closer attention to those less fortunate that we are, we will be more appreciative of Allah's blessing in our lives. 

During these times I remember my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters who are fasting under very difficult circumstances where a mere cup of fresh, cool water would be an absolute luxury. I feel ashamed that I am not thankful enough for what Allah has given me. And who can count the favors of Allah? As Allah says in Quran: 

وَإِذْ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ رَبِّ اجْعَلْ هَـٰذَا الْبَلَدَ آمِنًا وَاجْنُبْنِي وَبَنِيَّ أَن نَّعْبُدَ الْأَصْنَامَ 

"And He giveth you of all that ye ask for. But if ye count the favours of Allah, never will ye be able to number them. Verily, man is given up to injustice and ingratitude." (14:34)

And the believers are instructed to say upon breaking their fast:

Dhahaba al-ddhama' wa ibtallati al-'urooq wa thabata al-ajru in sha’ Allah --- "The thirst is gone and the veins are refreshed, and reward is complete by the will of Allah."

Oh Allah, for every drop of water I drink and wash myself with may I be truly thankful and not take your blessings for granted. Oh Allah, help me be mindful of the words of the Prophet Muhammad who said, "Don’t waste water even if you were at a running stream." 


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Surah Taha


I am currently reading and listening to Surah Taha recited by Mishary Rashid Al Afasy

My Ramadan Journal (introductory remarks)

by S. N. Smith

Ramadan Mubarak!

As I write these words, I am hours away from commencing my 21st Ramadan fast. When I embraced Islam back in 1993, Ramadan was in the month of February when the days were short and cold, so the fast was relatively easy. Now, in the months of July and August, the days are hot and very long, so this year will constitute a particular challenge. But I should not complain as I have plenty to eat and have an air conditioned room I can sit in to cool myself. Many of my fellow Muslims, on the other hand, will be facing deplorable conditions this year as they seek to fulfill their religious obligations and will have scant amounts of provisions with which to break their month long fast.  I am thinking particularity of Syria where the humanitarian crises is overwhelming. Food and drink are becoming harder to come by in several parts of the country. If I were to list all the countries in which Muslims will face a difficult Ramadan, this post will be very long indeed. May Allah make it easy for each and every one of them.

Ramadan, first and foremost, is a time for personal reflection and reform. It is a time in which one can assess their relationship with Allah and correct some of the mistakes they have made in the past year. The performance of good deeds and shedding of entrenched bad habits are of particular importance. When one emerges from Ramadan there should be a profound change in one's life and a more solid commitment to live the life of a good Muslim.  The scholar  Ibn al-Qayyim said: 
The fasting person’s limbs fast (abstain) from sins; his tongue fasts from lies, foul speech and false witness; his stomach fasts from food and drink; and his genitals fast from sexual union. If he speaks, he says nothing to violate his fast; and if he acts, he does nothing to spoil his fast. All his speech is salutary and wholesome, as are his deeds – just like fragrance one smells while sitting next to the bearer of musk. Anyone who sits with a fasting person benefits from his presence and is safe from false witness, lies, foul language and wrongdoing. This is the fast prescribed by the Sacred Law; it is not simply abstinence from eating or drinking.
 I don't know in advance how I will do in that respect, but I am going to give it an honest shot. I don't always feel good, due to health issues which have plagued me these past 9 years, but this is part of my personal test. 

I am going to try to post here some of my reflections during the month. I intend to read a large portion of the Quran and comment on a few select verses and how they personally speak to me. I hope in doing so that this will help me grow in my understanding regarding what  Allah wants for me and that Islam will become a more living reality and not just a label I place on myself. 

Stay tuned!


For two years now I have often been asked why I have not visited Egypt, where I had been forbidden entry for 18 years. Just as often I repeated that on the basis of the information I was able to obtain—confirmed by Swiss and European officials—the Egyptian army remained firmly in control and had never left the political arena.

I never shared the widespread “revolutionary” enthusiasm. Nor did I believe that events in Egypt, any more than in Tunisia, were the result of a sudden historical upheaval. The peoples of these two countries suffered from dictatorship, from economic and social crisis; they rose up in the name of dignity, social justice and freedom. Their awakening, their “intellectual revolution,” and their courage must be saluted. But to accept or justify a simple-minded, linear explanation of the political, geostrategic and economic issues would have been totally unconscionable. Nearly three years ago, in a book and then in a series of articles, I alerted my readers to a body of troubling evidences, and to the underlying geopolitical and economic considerations that were often missing from mainstream political and media analyses, and that insisted on submitting the euphoria that accompanied the “Arab spring” to critical analysis.

The Egyptian army has not returned to politics for the simple reason that it has never left. The fall of Hosni Mubarak was a military coup d’État that allowed a new generation of officers to enter the political scene in a new way, from behind the curtain of a civilian government. In anarticle published on June 29 2012 I noted an Army high command declaration that the presidential election was temporary, for a six-month to one-year period (its title made the premonition explicit: “An election for nothing?”). The American administration had monitored the entire process: its objective ally in Egypt over the past fifty years has been the army, not the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The latest revelations (see the International Herald Tribune , July 5, and Le Monde, July 6) confirm what was already clear: the decision to overthrow President Mohamed Morsi had been made well before June 30. A conversation between President Morsi and General al-Sisi indicated that the head of the country’s military had planned the overthrow and imprisonment of the president weeks before the popular upheaval that would justify the military coup “in the name of the people’s will.” A clever strategy! Orchestrate demonstrations involving millions of people in order to make believe that the army truly cares about the people! Coup d’État, second act.

How then to analyze the immediate reaction of the American administration, which avoided using the term “coup d’État” (which, if accepted, would mean it could not provide financial support to the new regime)? A curious position for a government that in its ‘surprise’ uses exactly the right words to exert full political, economic and legal leverage over the coup makers. European governments will follow suit, of course: the army has responded “democratically” to the call of the people. It’s all too good to be true! Magically, chronic blackouts, gasoline and natural gas shortages came to an abrupt end after the fall of the president. It was as though people had been deprived of the basic necessities in order to drive them into the streets. Amnesty International observed the strange attitude of the armed forces, which did not intervene in certain demonstrations (even though it was closely monitoring them), allowing the violence to spiral out of control, as though by design. The armed forces then accompanied its intervention with a saturation public relations campaign, providing the international media with photographs taken from its helicopters, depicting the Egyptian population as it cheered and celebrated their military saviors, as confirmed in Le Monde.

Nothing, then, has really changed: the “Arab spring” and the Egyptian “revolution” continue under the guiding hand of General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi. Trained by the United States Army, the general has kept close contact with his American counterparts. The New International Herald Tribune (July 6-7) informs us that General al-Sisi is well known to the Americans, as well as to the government of Israel, with which he “and his office”, we are told, continued to “communicate and to coordinate” even while Mohamed Morsi occupied the presidential palace. Al-Sisi had earlier served in the Military Intelligence Services in the North Sinai, acting as go-between for the American and Israeli authorities. It would hardly be an understatement to say that Israel, like the United States, could only look favorably upon developments in Egypt.

What, after the fact, is surprising, is the simple-mindedness, the lack of experience and the nature of the mistakes made by Mohamed Morsi, by his allies, and by the Muslim Brotherhood as an organization. For the last three years, I have been sharply critical of the thinking, action and strategies of the “Liberty and Justice” party, as well as of the MB leadership (over the last twenty-five years, my analyses and commentary have been and remain sharply critical). The trap seemed glaringly obvious; my writings on the subject (book, and articles written between March and December 2012) pointed to grave shortcomings. President Morsi cannot be fairly criticized for not doing all he could to establish relations with the opposition, either by inviting it to join the government or to take part in a broad national dialogue. But his approaches were rejected out of hand, with the opposition bitterly opposing his every initiative. The fact remains, however, that his management of the business of state, his failure to listen to the voice of the people and even to some of his trusted advisors, his exclusivist relationship with the highest echelons of the MB leadership, his hasty and ill-considered decisions (some of which he later acknowledged as errors) must be unsparingly criticized. But on a more fundamental level, his greatest fault has been the utter absence of a political vision and the lack of clearly established political and economic priorities, his failure to struggle against corruption and poverty, and his egregious mismanagement of social and educational affairs. The demands of the International Monetary Fund (and its deliberate procrastination) placed the state in an untenable position: the Morsi government believed that the international institution would support it. It is only today, now that President Morsi has fallen, that the IMF appears prepared to remove what were previously insurmountable obstacles. This, coming a mere three days after the overthrow of a democratically elected government.

The naivety of the president, of his government and of the Muslim Brotherhood has been stunning. After sixty years of opposition and military repression (with the direct and indirect benediction of the US Administration and the West), how could they possibly have imagined that their former adversaries would support their rise to power, invoking democracy all the while? Did they learn nothing from their own history, from Algeria in 1992, and, more recently, from Palestine? I have been and remain critical, both of the (superficial) content of their program and the ambiguous strategy of President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood (compromise with the armed forces and the United States, surrender on the economy and the Palestinian cause, etc.) but their lack of political awareness has been quite simply stupefying. To hear President Morsi tell General al-Sisi, a mere ten days before his overthrow, that he might well demote him (after all, he had appointed him) and that the Americans would “never permit a coup d’État” was as mind-boggling as it was surrealistic.

Some observers were startled to see the salafis , in particular the an-Nour party, join forces with the military alongside the “democratic” faction opposed to President Morsi. Were the outcome not so tragic, it would be tempting to label it farce. The Western media were quick to label the “Islamist” salafis as allies of the Muslim Brotherhood while; in point of fact, they were and are allies of the regimes of the Gulf States, who are in turn the regional allies of the United States. The idea was to undermine the religious credibility of the Muslim Brotherhood, and to force it into extreme positions. At the moment of President Morsi’s overthrow, they not only betrayed him but revealed their strategy and their strategic alliances for the entire world to see. It is hardly surprising to note that the first countries to recognize the new coup d’État regime were the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, whose powerful organizations provided, and still provide, direct and indirect financial support to the Egyptian salafis (as well as to their Tunisian counterparts). A superficial reading might lead one to believe that Saudi Arabia and Qatar support the Muslim Brotherhood; in reality they are the mainstays of American power in the region. The strategy is to sow division among the various political Islamic trends, to foment confrontation and to destabilize. This same strategy focuses on contradictions between Sunni political organizations and exacerbates divisions between Shia and Sunni. The United States and Europe have no quarrel with the political Islam of the salafi literalists of the Gulf States (and their denial of democracy, their non-respect of minorities, their discrimination against women, and the application of a strict “Islamic” penal code described as “shari’a”); they protect their geostrategic and regional economic interests while their repressive and retrograde domestic policies, as long as they are applied domestically, could not matter less to the West.

It’s all about keeping up appearances. Millions of Egyptians rallied in support of the “second revolution” and appealed to the armed forces, which were quick to respond. They now promise to turn over power to the civilians. The leader of the opposition, Mohamed al-Baradei, has played a central role in the process, and his prominence has been growing apace. He has been in close touch with the youthful cyber-dissidents and the April 6 Movement since 2008; documents of the U.S. State Department, which I quote in my book, point to his close connection with the American administration. His visibility has been promoted by a clever strategy, and even though he has declined the position of Prime Minister (and announced that he will not be a candidate for president, which has yet to be seen), he has emerged as an important player on the Egyptian political scene. He has notoriously—and democratically—defended the arrest of members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the closing of their television stations and the entire range of repressive measures imposed on citizens who continue to support President Morsi, even though they may not be MB members (some are supporting democratic legitimacy). The weeks to come will provide us with more details about plans for fleshing out the civilian character of this particular military state. It must be remembered that for decades the Egyptian army has managed close to 40% of the national economy as well as being the leading recipient of an annual American aid package of $1.5 billion.

An elected president has been toppled by a military coup d’État. There is no other word for it. The people, in their legitimate desire for a better life and for survival, for justice and dignity, have been unwitting participants in a media-military operation of the highest order. The situation is grave; the silence of Western governments tells us all we need to know. There has been no “Arab spring”; the perfume of its revolutions burns the eyes like tear gas.

In our day, it is not unusual for writer who does not accept the official consensus to be dismissed as a “conspiracy theorist,” for his analysis to be rejected before studying the facts upon which it is based. Are we to conclude that in our globalizing age, with its networks of national security policies and structures and its new means of communication, political scheming, malicious stratagems, manipulation of information and of peoples are a thing of the past? “Conspiracy theorist” is a new insult devised for those who think the wrong thoughts, who don’t fit in; paranoids, people who ascribe occult powers to certain states (the United States, the European countries, Israel, the Arab and African dictatorships, etc.) that they really do not possess. We must forget what we learned about the conspiracies that have left their mark on the history of Latin America and Africa (from the assassination of Salvador Allende to the elimination of Thomas Sankara); we must overlook the lies that led to the invasion of Iraq and to the massacres in Gaza (both presented as legitimate defense); we must say nothing about the West’s alliance with and support for the literalist salafis of the Gulf sheikhdoms; close our eyes to the benefit for Israel of regional instability and of the most recent coup d’État in Egypt. We must remain naïve and credulous if we are not to notice that the United States and Europe on the one hand, and Russia and China on the other, have agreed to disagree on Syria, and that the 170 Syrians who die each day count for nothing against the strategic and economic interests of the Great Powers.

Our obligation is to stick to the facts, to avoid oversimplification. The polar opposite of an over-simplified reading of events is not “conspiracy theorizing” but that of intelligence informed by history, by hard facts and by a detailed analysis of conflicting interests. The interpretation presented here may well be wrong or inexact, but substantial and verifiable evidence has repeatedly confirmed it. From those who have criticized or challenged our analysis, we look forward to a fact-based counter-analysis far from denigrations and facile slogans. When people refuse to call a military coup d’État by its real name, and when most media avert their eyes, the hour for critical conscience has struck.

It's Ramadan