Saturday, July 20, 2013

POEM: A Journey to Ramadan

By: Simeitsa Stamoulas (Maryam Noor Stamoulas)

A Month of Mercy
is upon us.
And I remembered back
when I was young
about how I felt being able
to fast the whole month.
I thought, “How wonderful!
All the reward is in my grasp!”
I realized I should
plan for this blessed month.
So, I went in my room.
And I wrote a list.
I wrote,
I will pray my soul to rest.
I will fast with strength greater
than the one who wrestles men
My remembrance will
only be of Allah.
And can’t forget the coming Eid
I just kept on thinking how
I can just soak up this month
of reward.
And as I wrote, my father
entered my room.
“Oh Baba! I am preparing my
list for Ramadan. Come see
what I have written.”
My father examined every detail.
And when he looked up he smiled
then said, “Ya bunayyati (O my daughter),
these are all great things you have listed,
but I think you are missing something.”
I said, “Missing something? What do
you mean?”
He stopped for a while,
and asked me to come with him.
My father took my hand.
And we traveled into the city.
It is not something I experienced often.
And I observed the status of its condition.
I saw walks of life with no homes.
Children in rags that had seen better days
on some other child that had thrown them away.
I saw a dinner plate between a mother
and her four starve stricken children.
A plate only consisting of two
decomposed dates found
and split into four halves.
And then we stopped.
I looked at my father with tears saying,
“Where are we Baba?”
He held me close and wiped my trickles.
“Bunayatti, when I saw your list indeed I was
pleased, but Ramadan is not only
about you or I. It is about the people
around you who need you the most.
It is a second chance. It’s a reminder to mankind
that forgiveness is near.
It’s about self reflection, and unity.”
From then on I learned that Ramadan
was not about how many prayers I did.
The clothes I bought.
Or even the strength that
I had to fast.
It wasn’t what was sitting on the dinner
table, but who was sitting around it.
It was about us all gathering together
and crying out, “Ya Rabbana!
Your Mercy is as the river flows.
And Your Bounty has no limits!
Make this the month of great
treasures for them!”
It was the peace on their faces
after telling reciting the verse to them
“Verily, with every difficulty there is relief”(94:6).
It was Allah letting them know
He had never forgotten them
Nor had He left them not
even for a blink of an eye.
I say to you,
Ya ayyuhal Mu’minun(O you Believers)!
Don’t be missing something this Ramadan.

Surah as-Sajdah recited by Mishary Al-Afasy

I am currently reading and listening to Surah as-Sajdah recited by Mishary Al-Afasy

My Ramadan Journal -- Day 11

By S. N. Smith

As we enter into the second one third of Ramadan, it is important to seek Allah's forgiveness, for Ramadan is indeed a month of forgiveness. And, as Allah says, "And who can forgive sins except Allah?" (3:135) With this thought in mind, I invite myself and you to reflect upon the following Hadeeth Qudsi:

Anas (May Allah be please with him) said that he heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) say: “Allah the Exalted said: 

"O son of Adam! As long as you invoke Me and plead to Me, I will forgive you whatever you have committed, and I will not make much of it. O son of Adam! If your evil deeds reach the borders of the sky, and then you ask Me for forgiveness, I will forgive you. O son of Adam! If you bring forth the earth full of errors, then you meet Me while you do not associate anything (or anyone) with Me, I will bring forth for you its full of forgiveness." [Related in At-Tirmidhee -- Graded as Hassan in strength (click here for an 8 page full explanation of the hadeeth)] 

It is plain from this hadeeth, as well as the following selection of ayat and ahadeeth out of many others that could have been cited, that Allah loves to forgive His servants. Allah says in the Quran, “Allah loves those who frequently turn to Him in repentance and those who purify themselves.” (2 :222)  Allah further says, "Lo! Allah is a Lord of Kindness to humankind, but most of mankind give not thanks." (2:143) In addition, Allah says, "And seek Allah's forgiveness. Certainly, Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." (73:20) 

And the prophet (PBUH) said, "“If you did not commit sins and turn to Allah seeking His forgiveness, He would have replaced you with another people who would sin, ask Allah’s forgiveness and He would forgive them." (In Riyad Al-Saliheen) 

The prophet (PBUH) further said, “Allah is more delighted with the repentance of His servant than one of you who suddenly finds his camel laden with supplies after losing it in a barren land."(Also in Riyad Al-Saliheen) 

Reflect upon that imagery and then think about this ayat where Allah says, "Say: O My servants who have transgressed against their own souls, despair not of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful." (39:53) 

And further Allah says, "And invoke Him in fear and aspiration (of hope). Indeed, the mercy of Allah is near to those who do good." (7:56)  Allah further says, "Those whom they invoke seek means of access to their Lord, [striving as to] which of them would be nearest, and they hope for His mercy and fear His punishment. Indeed, the punishment of your Lord is ever feared." (17:57)

Related to these above verses there is a hadeeth which says, "Anas (may Allah be please with him) related that the Prophet (PBUH) entered on a young man who was dying, and said to him: “How are you?” He said: “I hope in Allah and fear my errors!” the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: They (fear and hope) will not be combined in the slave's heart in this situation, but Allah will give him what he hopes for and will grant him safety from what he fears.” [Recorded in At-Tirmidhee]

Allah says of the repentant servant that, "They forsake their beds to call their Lord in fear and hope." (32:16) 

Further, Allah quotes Prophet Yaqoob (PBUH) in the Quran, "Indeed, no one despairs of relief from Allah except the disbelieving people." (12:87)

We should not wait too long to seek forgivenss, but should do it now, for Allah says, "And of no effect is the repentance of those who continue to do evil deeds until death faces one of them and he says, Now I repent, nor of those who dies while they are disbelievers. For them, We have prepared a painful torment." (4:18) And Allah further says, "With Allah is the knowledge about the Hour (end of the world). He is the One who sends down the rain, and He knows the contents of the womb. No soul knows what will happen to it tomorrow, and no one knows in which land he or she will die. God is Omniscient, Cognizant." (31:34)

And, as the opening hadeeth in this article indicates, we must avoid associating partners with Allah (shirk) and keep our devotions purely for Him and out of no other motivation, as Allah says, "Verily, Allah does not forgive that partners should be set up with Him, but He forgives whatever is less than that for whomever He wills. And whoever sets up partners with Allah has indeed invented a tremendous sin." (4:48) Allah also says, "Verily, Allah forgives not the setting up of partners with Him, but He forgives whom He pleases whatever is less than that. And whoever sets up partners with Allah has indeed strayed far away." (Surat an-Nisaa 4:116) Related to this, Allah further says, "Say: I am only a man like you. It has been revealed to me that your God is One God. So whoever hopes for the meeting with his Lord, let him work righteousness and associate none as a partner in the worship of his Lord."(18:110) Allah also says, "And certainly, it has been revealed to you and to those before you: Surely if you associate (with Allah), your work would certainly come to naught and you would certainly be of the losers." (39:65)

And there is a great reward for those who turn to Allah and ask for His forgiveness. As Allah says, "Say: Shall I not inform you of things far better than those (things of this world)? For the pious, there are gardens with their Lord, wherein rivers flow. Therein (is their) eternal home and pure wives. And Allah will be pleased with them. And Allah is Seer of the slaves. Those who say, Our Lord! We have indeed believed, so forgive us our sins and save us from the punishment of the Fire. They are those who are patient, those who are true and obedient with sincere devotion in worship to Allah. Those who spend (in charity) and those who pray and beg for Allah's forgiveness in the last hours of the night." (3:15-17) 

Additionally, Allah says, "And those who, when they commit a lewd act or wrong themselves with evil, remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their sins and who forgives sins except Allah? And they do not persist in what (wrong) they were doing while they knew it. For such, the reward is forgiveness from their Lord and Gardens with rivers flowing through, wherein they shall abide forever. How excellent is the reward of the doers (of good)!" (3:135-136)

Don't despair of Allah's mercy, my dear readers, over the many sins you may have committed. Ponder over the names of Allah which denote His mercy and compassion towards His servants. For example, consider the following:

Al-Ghafoor (Arabic الغفور): The most Forgiving. This name occurs in the Qur’an more than seventy times. There are other names from the same root, such as Ghafir and Ghaffar. The meaning of the “ghafara” is to cover, to hide and from it comes the meaning “to excuse”, “to pardon”, “to remit” and “to forgive”. Allah does all these things. In the Qur’an, it is mentioned that Allah does not forgive the Shirk (without repentance) but He may forgive every other sin for whomsoever He wills. (4:116) We must turn to Allah to seek His forgiveness. 

Al-’Afuw (Arabic:العفو): This has another aspect of forgiveness. This name occurs in the Qur’an five times. Literally the word ‘Afw means “to release” “to heal”, “to restore”, “to remit”. Thus in relation to Allah it means “to release us from the burden of punishment due to our sins and mistakes”, “to restore our honor after we have dishonored ourselves by committing sins and making mistakes.” Sometimes in the Qur’an both names: ‘Afuw and Ghafoor come together.

Al-Tawwab (Arabic:التواب): The Acceptor of repentance. This name of Allah is mentioned in the Qur’an about 11 times. Allah accepts the repentance of those who sincerely repent and turn to him. The word “tawwab” gives the sense of “oft-returning” which means that Allah again and again accepts the repentance. We make sins and mistakes then we repent, He accepts our repentance. Then again we commit sins and make mistakes and when we repent, He again very kindly accept us and gives us another chance. 

Al-Haleem (Arabic:الحليم): The Clement. This name is mentioned fifteen times in the Qur’an. This means that Allah is not quick to judgment. He gives time. He forebears and is patient to see His servant to return to Him. 

Al-Rahman (Arabic: الرحمن) and al-Rahim (Arabic: الرحيم) : The most Merciful and Compassionate. These names are the most frequent in the Qur’an. Al-Rahman is mentioned 57 times and al-Raheem is mentioned 115 times. Al-Rahman indicates that Allah’s mercy is abundant and plenty and al-Raheem indicates that this is always the case with Allah. He is full of love and mercy and He is ever Merciful. 

Let us, during these blessed days, join with prophet Yunus (PBUH) who, from the belly of the great fish, cried out لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنْتُ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ -- "There is no deity but You. Glory be to You! I was indeed wrong." (2:187)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Islam and China's Hong Kong: Ethnic Identity, Muslim Networks and the New Silk Road

by Peter Gordon

Hong Kong claims, with considerable justification, to be a finance hub, a logistics hub, a business hub, a media hub and even – somewhat less plausibly – a wine hub: perhaps if a claim is emphasized enough times and regulations tweaked a bit, then it might come to pass. And perhaps it has. Buoyed by these successes, the idea that Hong Kong might develop as a hub for Islamic banking has been floated for several years.

By any metric, Islam doesn't loom large in Hong Kong. But Wai-Yip Ho, a professor at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, argues in Islam and China's Hong Kong that there is enough of an Islamic presence here to anchor a role for Hong Kong in the relations (commercial and otherwise) between East Asia and the Muslim World.

Surah Luqman recited by Mishary Al-Afasy

I am currently reading and listening to Surah Luqman recited by Mishary Al-Afasy

Friday Prayer in Pakistan

Pakistani Muslims offer Friday prayers at mosque during the month of Ramadan in Lahore.

WHO's Iraq Birth Defect Study Omits Causation

Friday, 19 July 2013 By Sudeshna Chowdhury, Inter Press Service | Report

United Nations - A long-awaited study on congenital birth defects by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Iraq is expected to be very extensive in nature.

According to WHO, 10,800 households were selected as a sample size for the study, which was scheduled to be released early this year but has not yet been made public.

Many scientists and experts have started questioning the time delay in publishing the study, but there is another aspect that is a cause for concern among some health experts.

The report will not examine the link between the prevalence of birth defects and use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions used during the war and occupation in Iraq, according to WHO.

The fundamental hypocrisy of the "new atheists"


While the so-called "New Atheists" are spending their energies warning of the violence that is justified by religious belief, they miss the most dangerous, the most irrational, and the most pervasive religion on the planet: statism. Modern-day government is a god and statism is a religion that is responsible for 260,000,000 deaths in the last century alone. Join us today on The Corbett Report as we commit the heresy of denying the statist religion and disproving the government god.

My Ramadan Blog -- Day 10 (Converts and the Muslim community)

by S.N.Smith

I am continually struck by how much Muslim converts are ignored and disrespected in the Muslim community. In fact, it is so bad for many converts that they feel they are not seen as real Muslims at all by many Muslims who were born into Islam. At best, they are looked upon as being suspect by many of their fellow Muslims and that they have only signed on temporarily.  Speaking from first-hand experience -- being a convert to Islam (I despise the word revert) myself for the past 20 years -- I can say this really deeply hurts to the point of bringing one to tears. 

Converts are seen as being perpetual primary students who have to be continually taught how to make wudu and say the kalima properly. Their opinions on anything are rarely sought, and when they do give an opinion it is brushed aside as if it were coming from a child. That's it! Converts are children and, as such, are never seen as being anything other than in a perpetual state of spiritual and religious immaturity. Furthermore, converts even feel patronized [i.e. you are better than us born Muslims], which is totally infuriating. 

Muslim Converts, for the most part, do not feel a sense of being part of a larger community and look on with longing, and even a sense of envy, at people who are born into Muslim families and who have a wide circle of support and Muslim friends around them. Converts can only dream of experiencing such luxuries as they spend most of their time alone, isolated from the wider community. Eids and Ramadan are particularly lonely times

Most of the options offered to converts by the Muslim community include sitting in on halaqahs and being exposed to what amounts to extremist doctrines which transforms them negatively into something they are not. Many actually burn out and, as a result of being exposed to such teachings, leave Islam with a bitter taste in their mouths. I almost left myself when I was a newbie as I totally burnt-out after a year and a half.   
The Muslim community is very good at establishing dawah initiatives and inviting people to Islam, but very little is done to fully integrate new Muslims into the wider community so that they feel they truly belong. Converts are given a hug and a handshake on the occasion of their initial embracement of Islam and then left on their own, or become exposed to extremist ideology which is presented as the "real and authentic" Islam, when in fact such teachings are the exact opposite of what Islam actually teaches.

Born Muslims simply don't understand, or even care, how hard it is to become a Muslim and what it's like to face opposition and rejection from one's family and friends, while at the same time being ignored and even rejected by their coreligionists in the Muslim community.  They need and want the support of their fellow Muslims, but are not receiving it. 

It is very difficult to form one's Islamic / Muslim identity in the absence of a supportive community. Everything I have read and learned about Islam in these past 20 years tells me that Islam was never meant to be practiced in isolation, but rather it was meant to be practiced in the context of a larger community which offers a network of meaningful support. In the absence of this support, one's Iman becomes weak and the isolated person is vulnerable. But, in fact, many converts are being forced to practice their faith in isolation because the Muslim community does not really care about or understand their needs, which are human needs -- a need for a sense of community and belonging. 

I don't know if this problem is ever going to go away, or if in the context of all the issues facing the Muslim Ummah that it will ever get any real serious attention, but here is a shout out to my fellow Muslim converts that I understand the hurt, bitterness and bewilderment that many of you are going through. For after 20 years of being a Muslim, I still don't feel like I am fully accepted as being a real Muslim and perhaps that will never change. But the most important thing for me, in this stage of my life, is that Allah accepts me, for that is all that really matters. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sura Rum -- recited by Sheikh Sa`ad Said Al-Ghamdi

I can currently reding and listing to Surah Rum -- recited by Sheikh Sa`ad Said Al-Ghamdi

Chris Hedges: We Must Grasp Reality to Build Effective Resistance

US government using license plates to track movements of millions

By Eric London 
18 July 2013

A report issued by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Wednesday [ ] details an immense operation through which nearly 1 billion license plate records of hundreds of millions of drivers are tracked and huge databases are amassed, providing the American government with access to the history and recent whereabouts of the majority of the US population.

For years, a network of federal security agencies, local police departments and private companies have been using automatic license plate readers on police cruisers, in parking lots, at traffic intersections—even through smartphone apps—to photograph cars and their drivers and to record license plate numbers with the matching time, date and location.

ElBaradei’s democracy: How Egypt’s revolution was betrayed


SEATTLE – “The revolution is dead. Long live the revolution,” wrote Eric Walberg, a Middle East political expert and author, shortly after the Egyptian military overthrew the country’s democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi on July 3.

But more accurately, the revolution was killed in an agonizingly slow death, and the murders were too many to count.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a liberal elitist with a dismal track record in service of Western powers during his glamorous career as the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is a stark example of the moral and political crisis that has befallen Egypt since the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak. ElBaradei played a most detrimental role in this sad saga, from his uneventful return to Egypt during the January 2011 revolution — being cast as the sensible, Western-educated liberator — to the ousting of the only democratically elected president this popular Arab country has ever seen.

His double-speak was a testament not only to his opportunistic nature as a politician and the head of the Dostour Party, but to the entire political philosophy of the National Salvation Front, the opposition umbrella group for which he served as a coordinator.

Where Is Morsi? Absence of Egypt’s Detained Ex-President Attracts Scrutiny

Mohamed Morsi’s last public act as President was a brief — by his long-winded standards — 30-minute address on national television on July 2. In the prerecorded statement, he repeatedly hailed the legitimacy of government and his right to rule and warned against looming plots to usurp his authority and the electoral will of the Egyptian people.
Within 24 hours, Egypt’s first democratically elected civilian President was in army custody and hasn’t been heard from since. As Morsi enters his third week of detention, his status is becoming an increasingly uncomfortable issue as Egypt’s transitional military-backed government attempts to move on with the post-Morsi era. Foreign governments and even a few isolated secular Egyptian political leaders are starting to call for his release. Germany and Turkey have both openly dubbed Morsi’s continued detention without formal charges an illegitimate act. The U.S. also called for his release — although in much more passive language.

Meet Turkey's Muslim Socialists - rejecting capitalism with an Islamic outlook on economy

Anti-government protesters, who call themselves ''anti-capitalist Muslims'', shout slogans during a demonstration in Istanbul, June 23, 2013. (photo by REUTERS/Umit Bektas)

By: Mustafa Akyol for Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse

Among the various groups that joined the Gezi Park protests that shook Turkey in June, probably none was as unconventional as “Anti-Capitalist Muslims.” In the midst of avowedly secular Turks — ranging from liberals to communists, Kemalists to gay activists — they raised an “Islamic” voice against a government that is often perceived to be too Islamic. More recently, they even organized a mass iftar (fast-breaking dinner) which blurred all the classical Turkish distinctions between the religious and the secular, as described nicely in Fehim Taştekin’s Al-Monitor piece, “Turkey’s Gezi Park Protesters Regroup for Ramadan.” Hence they deserve a closer look.

The Anti-Capitalist Muslims are actually a very small group, whose frequenters are probably not more than a couple of hundred. As explained in their website, they see capitalism as “the enemy of God, the enemy of humanity, nature, the poor, the starving and the needy.” They had made their first public appearance in the May Day celebrations in Istanbul in 2011, by joining a large left-wing, mostly Marxist crowd with Quranic verses in hand. Since then, they have attracted the attention of the media with demonstrations and TV appearances.

My Ramadan Blog -- Day 9

by S. N. Smith

Ramadan is a time when a light is cast on our souls and we are more attune to what is taking place inside of us. Those destructive thoughts and emotions which rule our lives the rest of the year can be investigated and hopefully corrected as we bring our thinking back into proper perspective. Today I want to briefly write on the topic of envy -- "hassad" in Arabic -- as this is something which plagues us all and, if we indulge in it, will make our lives very miserable. A simple definition of envy is when one hates a blessing that Allah has blessed someone with and wishes for it to go away, and if the envious person could make it go away, he  / she would do that.

In an authentic hadeeth, Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) said: The Prophet (PBUH) said,
Beware of envy [hassad] because envy consumes (destroys) the virtues just as the fire consumes the firewood," or he said "grass.
[Recorded in Abu Dawud].

When we harbour envy in our hearts, we tend to embrace a set of assumptions which keeps the envy solidly in place. Envy is a sickness of the heart and soul and, beyond harming us spiritually, it also has the potential to harm our physical health to the point we become very ill. Here are some of the inner thought patterns, most certainly not exhaustive, which take place in the heart and mind of a person overtaken with feelings of envy:
* I wish I had what that person has, as I would be happier.
* I wish that person did not have that thing I desire, as I would be happier and my life would be better. I will be happier as long as they are not happy. I hope they lose what they have.

* That person is happier than I am because they have what I don't have, but want.

* That person does not deserve what they have. I more rightfully deserve what they have, this is so unfair. 
Those who harbor such thoughts in their hearts are filled with bitterness and rancor. They actually rejoice at the misfortunes of others instead of being happy for them. They have have lost all perspective and fail to take notice of the blessings in their own lives because they are consumed with bad feelings over what other people have. Furthermore, they fail to remember that Allah gives or denies things to whom He wills as that is His prerogative.  (see Quran 43:32) In addition, sometimes Allah keeps things from us for our own good as possessing those things may actually lead to our destruction. (see Quran 57:20-24) Allah always knows what is best for us better than we do. Instead of looking with envy at what other people have, it would be better to say "Alhamdulillah (praise be to Allah) for everything we have and Alhamdulillah for everything we were saved from having."

In an authentic hadeeth reported by Imams Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet said, "Do not envy one another and do not hate one another, and do not turn your back on one another (in discontent) and be the servants of Allah like brothers." 

In another hadeeth, Wathilah bin Al-Asqa` (May Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "Do not express pleasure at the misfortune of a fellow Muslim lest Allah should bestow mercy upon that person and make you suffer from a misfortune."[At-Tirmidhi].

Imam Al-Ghazali in his book Al-Ihya',  after a commenting in a number of pages on envy and its dangers, wrote:
Be aware that envy is one of the most dangerous diseases of the hearts, and there is no medicine for the diseases of the heart except with knowledge and deeds. 
As to the knowledge that treats the disease of envy is to know without any doubt that envy is dangerous for you in this worldly life and in your deen, and there is no danger from it on the envied person in this life nor in his deen, on the contrary, the envied person will benefit from it. 
The fact is envy is dangerous for your deen because with envy, you hated Allah's predestination and hated his blessings that He divided among his servants, and you hated His justice that He established in His world for a wisdom, so you contested that and objected it, and this is against the true oneness and belief. In addition to that, you would have shared with Iblees (the devil) and the rest of the non-believers with their love for the crises to fall upon the believers and for the blessings to go away from them. These are evils in the heart that eat up the good deeds and erase them like the night erase the day. 
And the fact that envy is dangerous upon your worldly life is that because you suffer from your envy in this life and you are tortured by it, and you will always be in sorrows every time you see the blessing of Allah on the envied person. 
And as to the deeds that would treat envy, you should control yourself, so everything that you did in the process of your envy for someone else like any saying or action, you should now strive to do the opposite; if envy had driven you to say something bad about your envied person, then strive to make your tongue complement him, and if it had driven you to look down upon him, then act with humility and apologize to him, and if it had driven you to stop doing good things for the envied person, you should push yourself to do good things for him.
Then, Imam Al-Ghazali said: "These are the medicines for envy, and they are very effective, but they are bitter on the hearts, but the effectiveness is in the bitter medicine, so whosoever cannot be patient with the bitterness of medicine cannot get the sweetness of the cure."

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: "I swear by the One in whose Hands is my soul! none of you will believe until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." [Al-Bukhaari & Muslim] This hadeeth, tells us the sign which indicates if someone is a true believer. 

He (PBUH) also said: "There is to be no envy except in two cases: (towards) a person to whom Allah has granted wisdom, and who rules by this and teaches it to the people, and (towards) a person to whom Allah has granted wealth and property along with the power to spend it in the cause of the Truth." [Al-Bukhaari & Muslim]

Ibn `Umar added to this from his own narration: "(And) a person to whom Allah has given the Quran and who recites it night and day, and a person to whom Allah has granted wealth and property from which he gives in charity by night and day."

If we want to compete for anything, then let us compete to earn the pleasure of Allah and enter into His paradise which He has prepared for the believers. Allah says, إِنَّ الْأَبْرَارَ لَفِي نَعِيمٍ عَلَى الْأَرَائِكِ يَنظُرُونَ تَعْرِفُ فِي وُجُوهِهِمْ نَضْرَةَ النَّعِيمِ يُسْقَوْنَ مِن رَّحِيقٍ مَّخْتُومٍ خِتَامُهُ مِسْكٌ ۚ وَفِي ذَ‌ٰلِكَ فَلْيَتَنَافَسِ الْمُتَنَافِسُونَ --- "Indeed, the righteous will be in pleasure. On adorned couches, observing…You will recognise in their faces the radiance of pleasure. They will be given to drink [pure] wine [which was] sealed. The last of it is musk. So for this let the competitors compete.” [Quran 83:22-26]

Finally, Allah ordered Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and all the believers to seek refuge from the evil of the envious person and envy, so He says in surat Al-Falaq, قُلْ أَعُوذُ بِرَبِّ الْفَلَقِ مِن شَرِّ مَا خَلَقَ وَمِن شَرِّ غَاسِقٍ إِذَا وَقَبَ وَمِن شَرِّ النَّفَّاثَاتِ فِي الْعُقَدِ وَمِن شَرِّ حَاسِدٍ إِذَا حَسَدَ -- Say: I seek refuge with the Lord of the Dawn. From the mischief of created things; From the mischief of Darkness as it overspreads; From the mischief of those who practise secret arts; And from the mischief of the envious one as he practices envy. (Quran 113:1-5)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Surat Al `Ankabut -- recited by Saad Al Ghamdi

I am currently reading a listening to Surat Al `Ankabut -- recited by Saad Al Ghamdi

Birmingham to be 'locked down' as 1,000 police called in for EDL demo on Saturday

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

More than 1,000 police officers will be drafted in for an English Defence League rally in Centenary Square in Birmingham's city centre this Saturday, the Birmingham Mail reports.

The far-right movement's supporters are expected to attend a static demonstration this coming Saturday and West Midlands Police have called in officers from neighbouring counties, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and West Mercia, to help control the protest.

The demonstration comes a week after a nail bomb exploded outside the Kanz-ul-Iman Muslim Welfare Association Central Jamia Mosque in Tipton and three weeks after a pipe bomb was discovered at the Aisha Mosque in Walsall.

In response to the EDL rally, campaigners from the Birmingham branch of Unite Against Fascism will hold a counter protest in nearby Chamberlain Square.

The major policing operation comes amid news that EDL protests in the West Midlands area have cost the local force £260,000 since 2010 and many local people see the costs as "a distraction to fighting crime". 

The Stream : Hollywood's Native American narrative

How much do Native American stereotypes in film impact attitudes towards indigenous communities? Some critics feel recent Hollywood portrayals continue to perpetuate negative and racist imagery. To what degree are stereotypes holding back progress for Native Americans?

Hungry Canadian aboriginal children were used in government experiments during 1940s, researcher says

Aboriginal children were deliberately starved in the 1940s and ’50s by government researchers in the name of science.

Milk rations were halved for years at residential schools across the country.

Essential vitamins were kept from people who needed them.

Dental services were withheld because gum health was a measuring tool for scientists and dental care would distort research.

For over a decade, aboriginal children and adults were unknowingly subjected to nutritional experiments by Canadian government bureaucrats.

This disturbing look into government policy toward aboriginals after World War II comes to light in recently published historical research. 

Artists Capture a Bloody Ramadan in Syria

Mubarak, (blessed) kareem (generous) or peaceful, are the usual words that come to mind during Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting when families and communities joyfully come together to pray and break their daily fasts.

But for artists depicting the holy month in Syria – blood, violence and helplessness are the only words that seem to fit. Since protests first began in March 2011 during the Arab Spring, Ramadan in Syria has not been mubarak, or kareem, and especially not peaceful.

What is really going on in Syria? Nobody can really tell. But what everyone can see are the countless people being killed, dozens kidnapped and hundreds forced to flee their homes everyday.

Read more......

Read also Aleppo Starves Under Siege

My Ramadan Journal -- Day 8

by S. N. Smith

Why is it that certain groups and individuals constantly talk and write about what nullifies Islam? Why not instead focus on what it takes to strengthen one's Iman instead of always looking at things negatively? It seems to me that such individuals and groups are looking for an excuse to label someone a non-believer instead of helping those who have weak Iman become stronger in the deen of Allah. Is it because the Iman of such people is so weak that they are unable to help others strengthen their Iman? 

"If you do this or believe that, then you are an unbeliever and are going to hell," they are always saying. Why not instead say, "Embracing the characteristics of a true believer, as outlined in the Quran and Sunnah, will earn one the favor of Allah and such a person will be truly blessed, both in this life as well as the hereafter." 

Islam is a simple and straight forward belief system, yet we complicate it with our own interjections. The message of the Quran and Sunnah is so crystal clear that even a child can understand its message. Don't tell me what takes me away from Islam. Tell me, instead, what I have to do to become closer to Allah and earn His favor. Tell me how I can become a better Muslim, not how I become a non-believer. The closer I draw to Allah, the less likely I will do those things which displease Him. The more my Iman becomes strengthened, the very thought of leaving Islam makes me shudder. Present Islam to me in a positive and uplifting way and the possibility of ever abandoning it becomes significantly lessened. 

Consider the following hadeeth Qudsi and reflect upon it. 

On the authority of Abu Harayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), who said that the Prophet (PBUH) said: Allah the Almighty said:

I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly better than it. And if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.
It was related by al-Buhkari (also by Muslim, at-Tirmidhi and Ibn-Majah. Found in Imam Nawawi’s 40 Hadith Qudsi).

My brothers and sisters in Islam, think well of Allah, especially during this month of mercy and blessing. Make mention of Him often, whether alone or in an assembly. Turn to Allah and He will turn to you. There is no one more merciful than Allah. He only wants what's best for His servants. Islam is a blessing, and those who follow it are truly blessed. Allah says in the Quran, يَمُنُّونَ عَلَيْكَ أَنْ أَسْلَمُوا ۖ قُل لَّا تَمُنُّوا عَلَيَّ إِسْلَامَكُم ۖ بَلِ اللَّهُ يَمُنُّ عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْ هَدَاكُمْ لِلْإِيمَانِ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ -- "They impress on thee as a favour that they have embraced Islam. Say, "Count not your Islam as a favour upon me: Nay, Allah has conferred a favour upon you that He has guided you to the faith, if ye be true and sincere." (7:17)

Remember further the words of Allah who also says, وَإِن تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَغَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ -- "If ye would count up the favours of Allah, never would ye be able to number them: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (16:18)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Surah Al-Qasas recited by Mishary bin Rashid Al-Afasy

I am currently reading and listening to Surah Al-Qasas recited by Mishary bin Rashid Al-Afasy

"Islamic beliefs, traditions and values provide an effective and comprehensive solution to the current environmental challenges faced by the human race. Islam has a rich tradition of highlighting the importance of environmental protection and conservation of natural resources," write Salman Zafar.

Six things the Prophet Muhammad has been given over other prophets

Prophet Muhammad (sws) is reported to have said: 
I have been given superiority over other prophets in six things: 
(1) I  have the ability to say what is comprehensive and concise; 
(2) I have been helped by means of striking awe [in my enemies]; 
(3) Spoils of war have  been allowed to me; 
(4) The earth has been made a mosque for me and a means to obtain purity also; 
(5) I have been sent as a prophet to all humankind; 
(6) The chain of prophethood has culminated on me [ie, there will be no more prophets after him].
(Recorded in Sahih Muslim) 

Facts about Depression that Everyone Should Know

Depression is one of the most common types of illness worldwide. There are almost 350 million people suffering from depression globally. More than 19 million people in America suffer from depression every year. Out of every 10 people in America 1 suffers from depression.

Famous people like Vincent Van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, Michelangelo and Mark Twain also suffered from depression. Hollywood celebrities Jim Carrey, Brooke Shield and Owen Wilson are also known to have this disease.

Depression is a kind of mental illness that can affect your physical as well as mental performance and in some severe cases it can be life threatening. According to WHO (World Health Organization), “Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the global burden of disease.”

Almost two-thirds of depression patients do not get necessary treatment. It is important for every individual to have a better understanding of this disease so that if you or your loved ones ever encounter depression you will know how to cope with it.

My Ramadan Journal -- Day 7

by S.N. Smith

When Allah mentions something in the Quran it is, without a doubt, important. But when He mentions something over and over again, then it must be really important and we should take heed. This repetition is Allah's way of reminding us that the topic in question is something we should make extra effort to focus upon and that it is not a light matter. Here, I am going to give you 10 verses from various parts of the Quran, out of many others I could have included, and then briefly comment on their central message. Click on the hyper-link for the Arabic original:
1) Who believe in the unseen, establish (wayuqīmūna) prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them, -- 2:3
2) And establish (wa-aqīmū) prayer and give zakah, and whatever good you put forward for yourselves - you will find it with Allah. Indeed, Allah of what you do, is Seeing. -- 2:110
3) Indeed, those who believe and do righteous deeds and establish ( wa-aqāmū) prayer and give zakah will have their reward with their Lord, and there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve. 2:277
4) Your ally is none but Allah and [therefore] His Messenger and those who have believed – those who establish (yuqīmūna) prayer and give zakah, and they bow [in worship]. -- 5:55
5) And to establish (aqīmū) prayer and fear Him." And it is He to whom you will be gathered. --6:72
6) The ones who establish (yuqīmūna) prayer, and from what We have provided them, they spend. -- 8:3
7) The mosques of Allah are only to be maintained by those who believe in Allah and the Last Day and establish (wa-aqāma) prayer and give zakah and do not fear except Allah , for it is expected that those will be of the [rightly] guided. -- 9:18
8) Indeed, I am Allah. There is no deity except Me, so worship Me and establish prayer for My remembrance. -- 20:14
9)  Indeed, those who recite the Book of Allah and establish (wa-aqāmū) prayer and spend [in His cause] out of what We have provided them, secretly and publicly, [can] expect a profit that will never perish --- 35:29
10) And they were not commanded except to worship Allah , [being] sincere to Him in religion, inclining to truth, and to establish (wayuqīmū) prayer and to give zakah. And that is the correct religion. -- 98:5
Note, I did not include many ayat which say essentially then same thing as there are so many of them, but what I have included is sufficient to make the point that Allah is telling us that this topic is really important. In these ayat, Allah is telling us to not merely perform the salat-- the word for that would be salleh -- but to wa-aqāmū salat -- establish the salat. What does it mean to establish the salat and how is it different than performing the salat? 

In Arabic, when one says salleh, it means they are performing the act of prayer and it denotes a one time action which they are doing at that particular moment. To establish the prayer, however, means something way more comprehensive and it is this which Allah wants us to pay close attention to. When Allah tells us to wa-aqāmū salat, it means establishing salat in our lives, regularly five times a day without missing any of the obligatory salat. Our whole lives should become focused around the salat and we are always aware of the time for prayer and offer them on a regular basis, on time, without fail. Offering prayer in a haphazard way or only on Fridays or Eid is, strictly speaking, not wa-aqāmū salat, but merely praying at our convenience. Various scholars have commented on what the term means:

Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said, "Iqamat As-Salah means to complete the bowings, prostrations, recitation, humbleness and attendance for the prayer.'' 

Qatadah said, "Iqamat As-Salah means to preserve punctuality, and the ablution, bowings, and prostrations of the prayer.'' 

Muqatil bin Hayyan said Iqamat As-Salah means "To preserve punctuality for it, as well as completing ones purity for it, and completing the bowings, prostrations, recitation of the Qur'an, Tashahhud and blessings for the Prophet . This is Iqamat As-Salah.''

Iqamat As-Salah also means to establish a place of congregational salat in one's locality. When a group of believers, even if their numbers are small, live in a locality then it is incumbent upon them to establish a place where they can meet together for congregational salat. Even if they all offered salat regularly, but did so only individually without ever coming together, they would not be fulfilling the requirements of  Iqamat As-Salah. 

Abi Ad-Darda'a said that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said "There are not three in a town where no Athan is called, and congregational prayers are not established amongst them except that the shaytan will overcome them, so you must stick to jama'ah (congregation) because the wolf gets the stray one." (Authentic hadeeth narrated by Abu Dawood and Ahmed.) 

In addition, Ibn Sa'eed Al-Khudry said that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, "If there are three let one of them be their Imam, and the one with the strongest right to be Imam is the one that is the best reciter of the Quran (both in terms of the amount memorized, and ability to recite it properly)." 

That does not mean that if an individual does not pray in congregation that their prayers are not accepted, Rather it means that the community as a whole is required to ensure that a place of congregational salat is established. This is the Quranic demand of  Iqamat As-Salah. It is always better, of course, to offer one's salat in congregationThe Prophet (pbuh) said: صلاةُ الجماعة تَفضُلُ صلاةَ الفذِّ بسبعٍ وعِشرين درجة --Which means: “Performing the prayers in congregation is 27 times more rewardable (thawab) than when one performs them alone.” (Related by Ibn Majah, at-Tirmidhiyy, and Ahmad ibn Hanbal.)

I don't want to go into the status of one's Islam regarding those who do not offer their salat, although there is a long and detailed scholarly discussion on this topic which should not be ignored. What I want to emphasize in this brief article is the importance of establishing the regular salat in our daily lives. In Ramadan, many Muslims becomes attendant to their salat and then slip once Ramadan is over. This is so sad as such people are missing out on a great blessing in their lives.

Allah says, اتْلُ مَا أُوحِيَ إِلَيْكَ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ ۖ إِنَّ الصَّلَاةَ تَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ ۗ وَلَذِكْرُ اللَّهِ أَكْبَرُ ۗوَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ مَا تَصْنَعُونَ -- “Recite that which has been revealed to you of the Book and keep up prayer; surely prayer keeps (one) away from indecency and evil, and certainly the remembrance of Allah is the greatest, and Allah knows what you do.” (Quran 29:45

Furthermore, the Prophet (pbuh) said, “If a person had a stream outside his door and he bathed in it five times a day, do you think he would have any filth left on him?” The people said, “No filth would remain on him whatsoever.” The Prophet then said, “That is like the five daily prayers: Allah wipes away the sins by them.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

Why would any believing Muslim want to abandon this great blessing in their lives?

In this Ramadan, let us make a firm commitment to establish the daily salat in our lives at all times and keep in mind the words of the Prophet (pbuh) who stated in an authentic hadeeth: “The first matter that the slave will be brought to account for on the Day of Judgment is the prayer. If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it is incomplete, then the rest of his deeds will be incomplete.” (Recorded by al-Tabarani and it has been graded as Sahih)

Let us join with Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) who, when making supplication to Allah, said:
رَبِّ اجْعَلْنِي مُقِيمَ الصَّلَاةِ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِي ۚ رَبَّنَا وَتَقَبَّلْ دُعَاءِ
"O my Lord! make me one who establishes regular Prayer (muqeema alssalati), and also (raise such) among my offspring O our Lord! and accept Thou my Prayer." (14:40)