Saturday, July 27, 2013

Surah Saad recited by Saad Al-Ghamdi

I am currently read and listening to Surah Saad recited by Saad Al-Ghamdi

SURAH AS SAFFAT Recited by Abdul Rahman As Sudais

I am currently reading and listening to Surah As Saffat -- Recited by Abdul Rahman As Sudais

'Combating Terrorism' Does Not Justify an Extralegal Mandate

[The following statement was issued by the below signatories and published by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies on 25 July 2013.]

"Combating Terrorism" Does Not Justify an Extralegal Mandate

The undersigned rights organizations express their grave concern over the statement made by the Minister of Defense, on behalf of both the armed forces and the police, calling on the Egyptian people to grant him a mandate to “combat terrorism.” The most prominent causes for concern over this statement are as follows:
* Current Egyptian legislation includes provisions which clearly criminalize all acts of terrorism. Not only is Egyptian law sufficient in this area, but some of these laws exceed the legitimate grounds for combating terrorism by criminalizing acts which should be protected as forms of freedom of expression. 
* Even if loopholes were to be found in the laws currently in place, addressing the matter would not require a “popular” mandate allowing the army and the police to act outside the law. Rather, the matter should be dealt with by reinforcing the rule of law. This could be achieved by the interim president–who holds broad exceptional powers–issuing the appropriate legal amendments after consulting with the vice president, the prime minister, and legal and rights experts. 
* In light of the religious and political exacerbation of the violence which has taken place over the last two years against the religious and political “other” (be it against Coptic Christians, Shiite Muslims, or others), it is necessary to evaluate the extent to which the law on political parties has contributed to this increase in violence and to the emergence of incitement to religious and sectarian hatred committed by some political parties and media outlets. 
* The real problem is that the police are not positioned in locations where violence violence attributable to hired thugs or to members of the Muslim Brotherhood occurs. This raises questions regarding whether the authorities are continuing to adopt a policy of selective policing and are purposefully absent from places where violence is expected to break out. The practice of selective policing has been implemented frequently by the police since the January 25 “Revolution”. Selective policing also does not require an extralegal mandate to be resolved; rather, the police should be obligated to perform their duties according to the law in order to prevent all acts of violence and terrorism by any party against citizens. 
* Nor does combating the emergence of terrorist acts in Sinai require an extralegal mandate. One of the most important–and painful–lessons learned by Egyptians during the Mubarak era is that main causes of increased violence were the repressive use of the law in confronting terrorist crimes when they first appeared in Sinai and the reinforcement of discriminatory practices against Egyptian citizens in the peninsula. These measures helped to the creation of an environment in which terrorism was able to take root. Unfortunately, these policies have continue even after the removal of Mubarak. Instead, the understandings between the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies contributed to the “suspension” of the law and of the role of law enforcement forces in combating illegal groups which embrace the use of violence. Ironically, human rights organizations were at the same time harassed and their offices broken into by the armed forces.
What is required to address this situation is not a popular mandate which would fundamentally violate the principles of a state governed by rule of law. Instead the government should strengthen of the rule of law by supporting the state institutions mandated to enforce the law in Sinai, developing the competence of the security bodies to collect information and conduct investigations in Sinai, and establishing an urgent plan to eliminate all discriminatory policies and practices against Egyptian citizens in Sinai with the participation of these citizens. The state, as represented by the interim president, should present a genuine apology to these citizens–and thereby to all Egyptians–for the discriminatory policies and the marginalization that they have experienced and for all of the crimes which have been committed by the security apparatus against them.


Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
The Human Right Association for the Assistance of the Prisoners
Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
The Land Center for Human Rights
Egyptian Association for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR)
Misryon Against Religious Discrimination (MARD)
Arab Penal Reform Organization

Column: The West loves democracy, in theory


The reluctance of the Western powers to denounce the military coup in Egypt — dare we call it that — which ousted a democratically-elected president, has once again exposed the inherent contradiction at the heart of the West’s push for democracy in the Middle East, and shown how ephemeral its commitment really is.

More than three weeks after the military tossed out the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi, Western governments can’t even bring themselves to call the ouster what it is: a coup d’état that forcibly removed Egypt’s first-ever democratically elected leader from office, taking cover under the umbrella of the mob that demanded his removal. From Barack Obama to British Prime Minister David Cameron and our own Stephen Harper, Western leaders have been dancing around the issue, parsing words.

“This is obviously an extremely complex and difficult situation,” U.S. Secretary of State John recently intoned. “The fact is we need to take the time necessary because of the complexity of the situation to evaluate what has taken place.”

But it was Cameron who perhaps said it best, showing how the West speaks from both sides of the mouth: “We never support in countries the intervention by the military. But what now needs to happen, what we need now to happen in Egypt is for democracy to flourish and for genuine democratic transition to take place ...”

No condemnation of the subversion of the kind of democracy the West constantly preaches it wants.

For U.S. Muslim converts, Ramadan a trying time of reflection and union

Yasmeen Sami Alamiri, Washington

Millions of Muslims gather across the United States daily, whether with friends, family or both, to break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan. The tradition has become a routine exercise for most. But, for one particular group of Muslims, the nightly gatherings are their chance to engage with others that share their same religion.

There are roughly 36,000 Muslim converts living in the United States, according to a 2011 Pew Research Center study. The converts, much like the rest of the near two million Muslims in the United States, live in different parts of the country, hold different jobs and have varying degrees of devotion to the faith. But, it seems, that Ramadan is able to bring together the communities of Muslims, whether born or converted.

This sense of community in the name of a shared religion is evidenced in a group of Muslim converts that gathered right outside of Washington, DC this week to speak about their varied experiences, particularly during this month of Ramadan.

“Ramadan has been a very solitary experience for me,” said Britain Eakin, who converted to Islam two years ago. She says that because she is new to the DC area, she is not linked into the greater Muslim community.

But, for others that have a more established base within their local Muslim communities, Ramadan is a time of socialization and gathering.

“Ramadan, for me now, as I’ve become more familiar with the options available and the Ummah in my area…is probably the best time of year for me because I get to see friends and fellow Muslims every single day, either to break fast at someone’s house, or to a masjid,” said Lauren Arnold, who converted to Islam more than 10 years ago.

The fasting days in the summer months are long. Work in the United States, for the most part, will not be augmented to accommodate observing Muslims, which only increases the hardship.

“It’s more of a struggle here than in other countries” that are Muslim majority, Lauren said. “I don’t have a family at home, really, that I can share my faith with.”

The concept of being a Muslim convert is a confusing and trying one for some, particularly if they choose to convert separate of their families. During months such as Ramadan, where an emphasis is placed on uniting the Muslim “Ummah,” it could be a tough, and often, lonely, time for Muslim converts living outside of a Muslim majority country.

“Support is lacking throughout the community,” said Courtney BreAnna Rupert, who converted to Islam one year ago. For Courtney, she says establishing an emotional and spiritual connection with the meaning of Ramadan does not come instantaneously. “I think it comes from years of experience to fully comprehend what Ramadan truly means.”

In an effort to alleviate grievances against the lack of a support structure for Muslims, organizations such as MakeSpace were founded. MakeSpace is a Washington DC-based initiative that is aimed at providing an “inclusive, responsive and transparently-managed hub” for local Muslims.

“What we've been able to do with make space is give people an opportunity to understand Islam through their own experience and perspective… we want to help them come to Islam and strengthen their faith based on where they are, without being judgmental,” said Hasan Shah, the organizer of MakeSpace.

“There is a huge difference” between people who are born Muslim and who have converted, said Dearing Keyser, who converted to Islam 11 years ago, and is married to an Egyptian Muslim man. “As a convert, you’re kind of looked at as an outsider,” she said.

But, Dearing maintained that outside judgments do not sway her faith, or her image of herself. “I’m an American first, and I’m Muslim.”

A 2007 Pew Research study showed that 58 percent of converts converted for religious reasons, while 18 percent converted for family or marriage reasons. Whatever the reasoning may be, it seems that the community of Muslim converts, at least in the Washington, DC area, are making a effort to unite among themselves, and the greater Muslim community—particularly during occasions such as the holy month of Ramadan.

(Yasmeen Alamiri is a producer for Al Arabiya in Washington, DC. You can reach Yasmeen on Twitter: @Yalamiri)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Egypt Reborn: To Include Or To Exclude? How To Deal With The Bro...

by Shereef Ismail -- July 26, 2013

“To include the Muslim Brotherhood in the political process or to exclude them?”

That is the question.

If you were to ask me what I think should be the answer to this question, I would say take all Egyptians out of Egypt, import more decent , charismatic, hardworking and logical human beings to save this country from being a hell hole at the hands of its own people.

You would probably then keep nagging your way towards getting a realistic answer until I respond, “They should not be excluded from the political scene in Egypt.”

And if you ask me why I think they shouldn’t you would not really get the kind of reasons that would convince you of my conviction. The thing is I am generally against exclusion, I might have lots of major issues with the Muslim Brotherhood but I don’t carry hatred towards them, and even if I did hate them, my emotional stances stand no chance at setting my opinions.

And this is exactly why I am writing this post. To get you to think beyond your emotions of hatred in evaluating what should be done with the Muslim Brotherhood. But in order to evaluate that we have to look at a few major issues. First we will have to take a quick look at the mistakes of the Muslim Brotherhood and the mistakes of the opposition over the one year Morsi ruled Egypt.

I have repeatedly said the following with barely anyone I know caring enough to analyze the statement, let alone to listen to it:

'”Every successful society is constituted of two kinds of responsibilities, a governmental responsibility and a social responsibility. Both go hand in hand and the level of success of a society is based on how far the bearers of both responsibilities are willing to move forward, hand in hand.”

Today in Egypt

PHOTO: Supporters of ousted President Morsi (left) and supporters of the army (right) in Cairo. Click on photo to make larger.

Words of wisdom from the late Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

The late Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Indian scholar and a senior political leader of the Indian independence movement who opposed the partition of India, stated the following in a 1946  interview with journalist Shorish Kashmiri for a Lahore-based Urdu magazine, Chattan. The statement is still worth reading as what he says remains applicable today:
Muslims must realise that they are bearers of a universal message. They are not a racial or regional grouping in whose territory others cannot enter.  
Strictly speaking, Muslims in India are not one community; they are divided among many well-entrenched sects. You can unite them by arousing their anti-Hindu sentiment but you cannot unite them in the name of Islam. To them Islam means undiluted loyalty to their own sect. Apart from Wahhabi, Sunni and Shia there are innumerable groups who owe allegiance to different saints and divines. Small issues like raising hands during the prayer and saying Amen loudly have created disputes that defy solution.  
The Ulema have used the instrument of takfeer [fatwas declaring someone as infidel] liberally. Earlier, they used to take Islam to the disbelievers; now they take away Islam from the believers. Islamic history is full of instances of how good and pious Muslims were branded kafirs.  
Prophets alone had the capability to cope with these mindboggling situations. Even they had to pass through times of afflictions and trials. The fact is that when reason and intelligence are abandoned and attitudes become fossilised then the job of the reformer becomes very difficult.  
But today the situation is worse than ever. Muslims have become firm in their communalism; they prefer politics to religion and follow their worldly ambitions as commands of religion.  
History bears testimony to the fact that in every age we ridiculed those who pursued the good with consistency, snuffed out the brilliant examples of sacrifice and tore the flags of selfless service. Who are we, the ordinary mortals; even high ranking Prophets were not spared by these custodians of traditions and customs.
Full interview here....

France: police brutality, not burkas, the source of tensions

Systemic racism has not seen any consequences among French police forces and contribute to tensions with Muslims.

Myriam Francois-Cerrah -- July 26, 2013

Source: Al-Jazeera

Until recently, the Parisian suburb of Trappes was famous for producing some of France's brightest stars, including footballer Nicolas Anelka and comedian Jamel Debbouze. But this weekend, it gained notoriety as the site of the latest burka ban controversy.

At the heart of the recent protests is a concern over systemic and institutionalised racism in France's establishment and the unwillingness on the part of politicians and sections of the media, to confront it.

The disturbances began following the ID check of a woman wearing the face veil. What ensued remains unclear, with dramatically diverging testimonials from police and eyewitnesses.

The police claim face-veil clad Hajjar, who was accompanied by her mother, husband and four month old baby resisted the check and that her husband reacted violently, assaulting an officer. Official sources present the resultant protests as opposition to the enforcement of the 2011 ban on face veils by 'Islamic militant elements'.

For her part, Hajjar claims she and her husband, 21 year old Michael, were the victims of excessive force used by bigoted police officers. Eyewitnesses confirm Hajjar's testimonial that she was violently dragged by her hair and pinned against a police car. Her husband intervened and was handcuffed.

Both Hajjar and eyewitnesses deny police claims that the couple were violent towards police officers. According to Samba, a representative for the Association of residents of Trappes, a North African woman who attempted to intervene was told to "sod off, you dirty Arab", by officers present.

Following the incident, around 200 (mainly) peaceful protestors, including women and children, gathered outside the local police station on Friday evening, objecting to the treatment of the couple and to the unwillingness of the local police station to hear a complaint over the behaviour of the officers.

What is certain is that a minority of protestors clashed with police officers who responded in full riot gear, using tear gas. A fourteen year old boy suffered a serious eye injury and a police officer was injured. Six people were arrested - three of whom have since been handed sentences ranging from ten to six months.

One of those arrested ended up with 15 stitches, head injuries and a broken leg, all of which he claimsoccurred at the hands of seven police officers who assaulted him without provocation.

In a visit to Trappes on Monday, Interior Minister Manuel Valls was intercepted by a woman who expressedthe distress of the residents and concern over a "two tier system" in which police violence goes unchecked.

Highlighting the current gulf separating politicians from some of France's most marginalised communities, Valls responded by chastising the woman for questioning the police force's integrity.

Despite the serious nature of the allegations, as well as the injuries sustained, Valls has publicly stated that he is in no doubt that the "police did their job perfectly". This, despite persistent allegations that French police use excessive force, particularly in their dealings with residents of France's impoverished and marginalised suburbs.

A 2009 Amnesty International report highlighted how allegations of unlawful killings, beatings, racial abuse and excessive use of force by France's police officers are rarely investigated effectively. Despite accusations of gross human rights violations, often against ethnic minorities, officers are seldom brought to justice.

Just last year, 30 year old Wissam El Yamni fell into a coma and died in police custody following a forceful arrest. It has been a year, and no police officer has been put on trial or has even faced a judge. No explanations have yet been offered on why Wissam's body showed bruises, red marks around his neck as well as fractures.

Also last year, residents of Aulnay sous-Bois accused the police of complicity in the death of 25 year old Christian Lambert during a stop and search. Although official reports claim he died of a heart attack, friends point to the excessive use of force by officers on the day which they felt was partly to blame.

Allegations of police brutality are not uncommon in France's poorest neighbourhoods where the police are often viewed as a violent instrument of state repression, subduing the poorest and most marginalised, with little accountability. Just days before this most recent incident, residents of Aulnay-sous-bois complained of the police's heavy handed tactics during Bastille Day celebrations on July 14th, in which municipal employees claim to have been beaten by officers.

These incidents are indicative of the tense relationship between residents of certain neighbourhoods and some of the officers charged with policing the areas. Just days after the disturbances in Trappes, French Muslim website al-Kanz posted screenshots from an unofficial police Facebook forum, "Forum Police-Info", in which officers expressed racism and violent intent including a call to "empty your munitions in Trappes" and "watch out for cameras and take no prisoners" as well as support for the Far Right.

"Spent the night in Trappes, poor France, long live bleu Marine", one post read, in reference to national front leader Marine Le Pen. The page has since been taken down, as has the profile of one of the officers who appeared to have been present in Trappes, but the feeling that officers are often racist and bigoted prevails.

Politicians and sections of the French media have framed the incident as reflecting tensions over the ban on face veils, however Hajjar states she has previously been stopped because of her face veil and no trouble resulted.

Although the ban on face veils is perceived in some circles are another opportunity to stigmatise Muslims, recent events reflect far deeper anxieties over police brutality, an unwillingness among government officials to hear sections of the French citizenry and double standards in the treatment of ethnic minorities who already experience discrimination in many facets of French life, from employment to housing.

Valls' statement confirms a widespread sentiment that French citizens who live in impoverished suburbs, be they Muslim or not, don't matter and that violence against them occurs in all impunity.

Despite the law banning face veils having been justified on the basis of protecting public order (although there is no evidence it previously threatened it), the law has led to increased discrimination against Muslim women, including acts of violence by vigilantes.

With worrying acts of Islamophobia increasingly common in France, including at a legislative level where UMP MPs are now seeking to extend the ban of the headscarf from the public sector to the private sector, many French Muslims feel the authorities are deaf to their concerns.

Hajjar's offence was no more serious than a minor traffic infraction - but the treatment which she, and others, allege followed is far more serious. In dismissing accounts of police brutality, the authorities are confirming the widely held perception of a system in which residents of poorer suburbs, minorities and Muslims in particular are less worthy of public protection and fair game for stigmatisation and violence. France has yet to have an equivalent to the Stephen Lawrence case, a watershed moment in which the entire police force is made to confront its racist elements.

In response to the events in Trappes, Valls insisted there is "only one law in this country", a law burka-clad women could not be absolved from obeying. It is time for an independent inquiry which can help heal the chasm in French society by vindicating victims of police abuse and reassuring the residents of Trappes and elsewhere that indeed, there is only one law and that no one stands above it. Not even the police.

Myriam Francois-Cerrah is a freelance journalist. She is studying for a DPhil at Oxford University, focusing on Islamic movements in Morocco.

Follow her on Twitter: @MFrancoisCerrah

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Surah Yasin -- recited by Mishary Rashid Al Afasy

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

Egypt Bans Gaza Fishermen From Its Waters

By: Abeer Ayyoub for Al-Monitor Palestine Pulse Posted on July 25, 2013

Palestinian fishermen have been banned by Egyptian authorities from sailing into Egyptian waters. It is the latest punitive measure slapped on Gaza following President Mohammed Morsi’s overthrow on July 3. 

The fishermen often sailed toward Egyptian waters from their narrow fishing zone, which Israel has set to six nautical miles and which is described by local fishermen as a “pool.” 

According to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, the Egyptian military banned fishing in the area of the northern Sinai towns of Rafah, Sheikh Zuweid and El-Arish from July 18 until further notice.

The paper claimed that the reason behind the ban is to prevent the infiltration of Palestinians and jihadi agents from Gaza to Egypt by fishing boats.

Racism scars many Syrian refugees in Egypt and Lebanon

Watch this report from Human Rights Watch

AFP, BEIRUT -- July 25, 2013

A wave of xenophobia is blighting the lives of thousands of Syrian refugees in countries such as Egypt and Lebanon, where they are often blamed for anything that goes wrong. 

In Egypt, Syrians are accused of taking sides and interfering in the country’s political crisis, while in Lebanon they are accused of taking the jobs of Lebanese.

Egyptian media have played an instrumental role in spreading anti-Syrian sentiment, accusing them of joining protests in support of deposed Islamist president Mohammad Mursi.

Mursi, removed by the army on July 3 after huge protests, rose through the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood -- a key component of the opposition in Syria.

“We must boycott Syrian shops because they use our money to terrorize us,” reads one text message distributed via social networks.

“Several unemployed Syrians have been paid 300 Egyptian pounds (43 dollars) by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau to take part in (pro-Mursi) protests,” the message adds.

The message also accuses Syrians of using weapons supplied to the rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in clashes in Egypt between pro- and anti-Mursi protesters.

The tone can be just as harsh on Egyptian television.

International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) Statement on Al-Sisi's Address to Egyptians

In response to the address made by Egypt’s chief General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on Wednesday, July 24th, calling Egyptians to take to streets next Friday to “mandate” him to combat terrorism, seen by many analysts as a call for granting him license to use violence against Morsi supporters, the International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS) issued the following statement.

In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate

International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS)

Media Office

Doha, Ramadan 15th, 1434 A.H./ July 24th, 2013

IUMS calls on the Egyptian nation, with all of its components--people, political parties, army, and police--to protect Egypt’s security and to prevent anything that may lead to a civil war. It warns against any call that incites sedition or justifies violence and terror against any party.

The whole world was shocked by the statement made by General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi which asked Egyptians to take to streets in order to support the coup and to combat violence and terrorism.

Analysts understood this call as [a request of] a pretext for [expected government’s use of] violence against (pro-Morsi) protesters which will lead, God forbids, to a civil war.

For about month, (pro-Morsi) protesters have succeeded in keeping their protests peaceful despite the killing and terrorizing they were subjected to. During all this period, they have been demonstrating, standing in night vigil prayers and supplicating Allah. Their sole goal has been to reinstate legitimacy, to preserve the gains of the January 25th revolution, and to prevent the corrupt and the remnants of the old regime from controlling Egypt.

These [peaceful protesters] faced a massacre at the Republican Guard [facility] that had a toll of tens of deaths, including 5 kids, and hundreds of injuries. In Ramses street, more martyrs fell and hundreds were injured too. The same repeated in Alexandria and Al-Mansura governorates. Even women were not spared slaying; four ladies fell martyrs. Another massacre occurred yesterday in Salah Salim Street.

Despite all these massacres and violence, the protesters stick to peacefulness, as witnessed by the unbiased throughout the world. Indeed, protesters used to accompany their kids which prove that they had no ill intentions.

It is strange that this call has been made by General Al-Sisi and not by the interim President or the Prime Minister, which proves for the whole world that this is a coup that meets all prerequisites of a coup and has all its components.

In view of this distressing situation and fearing that the Algeria’s tragic experience should be repeated in Egypt, the International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS) holds and affirms the following:

First, all Egyptians (the people, parties, police and army) are demanded to protect the security of their country and to prevent anything that may to a civil war which will cause losses for all parties. This is an obligation dictated by both the Shari`ah and the [common] interest; so it is not permissible to neglect it.

Second, it is prohibited to follow any call leading to a civil war, providing a pretext for violence against certain party or inciting sedition. This is proved by numerous evidences from the Qur'an and the Sunnah. One of them is Allah’s saying: {…persecution is worse than killing} (Al-Baqarah 2: 217)

{…whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land - it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one - it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.} (Al-Ma’idah 5: 32)Third, IUMS warns in the strongest possible terms against the involvement of the military or police in shedding the blood of the Egyptians or violating their honor as these are among the major destructive sins. Allah Almighty says:

He also says:

{whoever kills a believer intentionally - his recompense is Hell, wherein he will abide eternally, and Allah has become angry with him and has cursed him and has prepared for him a great punishment.} (An-Nisaa’ 4: 93)

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) made it clear that the sanctity of the believers’ blood is comparable to that of the holy Mosque during the holy month and that "A believer continues to guard his Faith (and thus hopes for Allah's Mercy) so long as he does not shed blood unjustly." (Bukhari and Muslim)

Fourth, IUMS calls on all the Egyptian to overcome this crisis by acting wisely, preferring the higher interests of Egypt, sticking to peacefulness in their protests and holding to patience and forbearance whatever the situation and circumstances are. It is better to be killed unjustly than to commit injustice and kill others.

So, we plead to all Egyptians, reminding them about Allah and the kinship relations that connect them, to steer clear of hatred, grudge and narrow partisan or personal interests.

IUMS emphatically calls on Arab and Islamic countries and peace-loving nations and figures to make a prompt initiative to solve this serious crisis whose dangers and grave consequences, the range of which known only to God, threaten not only Egypt’s security but also the security of the whole Arab and Islamic Ummah.

In this regard, Muslim rulers have a major responsibility before Allah first, then before history and [coming] generations, if they ignored this issue and did not exert every effort to get out of this severe crisis.

If sedition breaks out, God forbids, it will destroy all and everyone. Allah says:

{And fear a trial which will not strike those who have wronged among you exclusively} (Al-Anfal 8: 25)

{And Allah is predominant over His affair, but most of the people do not know}

Professor `Aly Al-Qurra Daghy
General Secretary 

Professor Yusuf Al-Qaradawy

Cleansing Your Spirit, or Just Your Conscience? Towards a Class Struggle Ramadhan

by Noaman G. Ali -- July 24, 2013

For Muslims who want to create a socially just world, it’s time to rethink the way in which Muslims relate to ‘the poor’ during Ramadhan. We are told and we tell people that empathizing with the poor is an important aspect of fasting. As the story goes, Muslims experience (if only for a few hours) what millions if not billions of underfed people around the world go through. Those who are unable to fast are instead supposed to feed poor people. Not only that, Muslims are encouraged to give more charity during the holy month.

I was in Rawalpindi, one of Pakistan’s larger cities, on the first day of this year’s Ramadhan. I was in a market that would otherwise be crowded, walking around, looking for tafsirs [interpretations] of the Qur’an. It was really hot, around 40°C plus humidity, and I was feeling dizzy and even nauseous. It wasn’t the hunger so much as it was the thirst. Then I came upon workers who were unloading big sacks of grain off of trucks, carrying them on their backs or pulling whole carts with their bare hands.

I got in a taxi and I asked the driver, who was struggling with keeping away from tobacco, if those workers were fasting. He said only God knows what the level of their faith is. But what does faith have to do with it? Faith isn’t some kind of a bulletproof vest that enables you to bypass hunger and thirst while performing hard labour. It doesn’t free you from having to work to provide for your family. If anything, Ramadhan makes it harder, because the prices of basic foodstuff shoot up as demand increases. So workers have to find a way to make more money to pay for the same amount of food, or, they have to go into greater debt.

Wealthier Pakistanis move to colder areas with resorts, like Kalam or Murree, because they don’t want to have to deal with the heat. Pakistan’s richer tend to have better access to electricity, which can keep fans going, and may even have air conditioners. But the poor have none of that, power outages (load shedding) are common, so even if you can scrape by the money for a fan it won’t be working. In the cities, the shaded indoors can be crowded and suffocating, and the humidity means that you sweat a lot and get dehydrated easily. Imagine having to abstain from water for 16 hours in these conditions.

Outside of Ramadhan, I found that workers have it the hardest. I was supposed to meet a farm worker in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for an interview in June, but his people sent his apologies. He had suffered heat stroke. The doctor who came to see him had charged 500 rupees, when the worker’s casual daily wage was 300 rupees. This is the story over and over: workers barely make enough to scrape their families by on casual work, and there is practically no permanent work to be found.

Workers often go hungry — a 2011 study showed that 58% of Pakistani households are food insecure, nearly 30% with moderate or severe hunger. Their children often cannot afford to go to government schools — never mind private schools — because they are out looking for work or because they can’t pay the nominal fees. Meanwhile, workers toil in difficult conditions, often not getting paid on time or not getting paid at all by more powerful bosses. Workers can’t even go on strike because there is a whole crew of other workers desperately looking for jobs who would render any strike useless. They work in the heat, they work in the cold, they work all the time.

The overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world are poor. The poor are not the minority. Many of them are un- or underemployed people looking to scrape together livelihoods by any means they can find, many are workers who build things or work in factories, many try to hawk wares and goods or start tiny businesses, and many are poor farmers without enough land or farmers with land who don’t get the prices they deserve. So many are women who put in long hours of work at home and then, the poorer they are, often working outside of the home as well.

So what does it mean to empathize with the poor during Ramadhan? The neat package of empathy with the poor during Ramadhan sounds kind of hollow. After all, check out some of the massive iftars [communal breaking of the fast] that people put on; or the fact that a lot of people put on weight during Ramadhan, even though we’re supposed to be eating less and praying more; or the fact that a lot of people spend the day sleeping and the night eating. What’s more, those few hours of fasting throughout one day are actually incomparable to the feeling and effects of chronic starvation and lack of nutrition.

This empathy story is directed at a middle-class audience; assumed to be the typical, average kind of Muslim. The poor may exist, out there, separate from the typical normal Muslim, and if they do form part of the Muslim communities it’s through this condescending relationship of charity. People are encouraged to give to the poor, but not to ask why they are poor in the first place.

Couldn’t a deeper form of empathy involve struggling against the conditions that produce poverty? This wouldn’t come from a place of charity but from a place of solidarity, from a sense of oneness rooted in acknowledging our differences, but seeking to overcome them through struggle against structures of oppression and exploitation. The struggle for good, permanent, well-paying jobs; the struggle for higher wages; the struggle against unsafe working conditions; the struggle for cheaper agricultural inputs and fair prices for agricultural produce; the struggle for land for the landless or better cooperative uses of the land; the struggle to socialize domestic labour performed largely by women; the struggle against imperialist aggression; the struggle against tinpot dictators and fake democrats — all of these struggles have a direct impact on poverty.

What’s more, these kinds of struggles have precedent in the Islamic tradition, in the Qur’an, Sunnah and struggles of pious people. But it is precisely these kinds of struggles that are not emphasized by most scholars these days. The kind of Islam being marketed and produced on television in Pakistan or Egypt or in glitzy conferences in North America is not intended for the poor majority of Muslims. It’s meant for a middle-class audience, and the kind of Islam on offer is personalized and meant to make people feel better about themselves. It’s one thing to revive the spirit, quite another to change conditions that produce class disparities. This kind of self-centered spirituality — which we find across all religious traditions — becomes reactionary and unjust when it tells us that we cannot change these ‘God-given’ conditions, and halts any attempts by the people to change these conditions.

Solidarity with ‘the poor’ — the oppressed and exploited majority — is the only way to break out of the cycle of self-absorption and to move toward a more just society. Otherwise, the message of empathizing with the poor during Ramadhan is little more than a shallow exercise to allow the minority of more privileged Muslims (or even the most filthy rich Muslims, who are actually part of the problem) to feel better about themselves; or worse, feign that they actually care about ‘the poor’. It’s time for Muslims to use Ramadhan to intensify the struggle for human liberation, not just from temptations of the flesh, but also from oppression and exploitation.

Noaman was in Pakistan for research.

Comment on Quran 42:38

"Those who hearken to their Lord, and establish regular Prayer; who (conduct) their affairs by mutual Consultation; who spend out of what We bestow on them for Sustenance." (Quran 42:38)

وَالَّذِينَ اسْتَجَابُوا لِرَبِّهِمْ وَأَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَأَمْرُهُمْ شُورَىٰ بَيْنَهُمْ وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ

Mawlana Abu’l-A‘la Mawdudi comments on this verse in the following words: Their system is based on their consultation), by) أَمْرُهُمْ شُورَىٰ بَيْنَهُمْ The words their nature and scope entail five things: 
First, people whose interests and rights relate to the collective affairs should be given the freedom to express their opinion, and they should be kept totally aware of the actual way in which their affairs are being run; they should also have the right to object and to criticize if they see anything wrong in the way their affairs are being conducted and the right to change those in authority if the faults are not rectified. It is outright dishonesty to forcibly silence people or to run affairs without taking them into confidence. No one can regard this attitude to be in accordance with this verse.

Second, the person who is entrusted to run the collective affairs of the people should be chosen through their absolute free consent. Consent obtained  through force and intimidation, greed and gratification, deception and fraud is no consent at all. The ruler of a country is not one who obtains this position by hook or by crook; the real ruler is the person whom people choose freely without any compulsion. 
Third, people chosen for consultation should enjoy the confidence of the majority. Consequently, those who are worthy of consultation can in no way be thought to enjoy the confidence of the people in the truest sense if they acquire this position through force, extortion, fraud or by leading people astray.

Fourth, people who are consulted must express their opinions in accordance with their knowledge, faith and conscience and should have the complete freedom for such expression. If, because of fear, greed or some prejudice people are led to give opinions which are against their belief and conscience, then this is disloyalty and infidelity, and is a negation of the principle of consultation.

Fifth, a decision which is made through the consensus or majority opinion of  the members of the Shura or which has the mandate of the people behind it must always be accepted. Because if one person or group insists on an opinion, then consultation becomes useless. The Almighty has not said:  ‘They are consulted in their affairs’; on the contrary, He has said: ‘Their system is based on their consultation’. Merely consulting people does not  fulfill this directive; it is necessary that a consensus or majority opinion be considered as decisive in running the affairs.

Surah Fatir: Recitation by Sheikh Sa`ad Said Al-Ghamdi

I am currently reading and listening to Surah Fatir: Recitation by Sheikh Sa`ad Said Al-Ghamdi

History Slam Episode Twenty-Five: Budget Cuts and the Study of History

Posted: 24 Jul 2013 

By Sean Graham

Over the course of the past week, Ian Mosby’s work on nutritional experiments on aboriginal students in residential schools has received plenty of attention in the national media. While it will take a while before the full impact of the research is felt, there was some immediate excitement within the historical community that the issue had/has such traction nationally. In addition to uncovering the terrible abuse, the media interest of the past week has also shown the importance of historical research.

Let me be clear: I’m not saying that it’s good that these experiments happened because it gives historians something to talk about nor do I think historians should try to exploit these types of horrendous acts to further their own careers. (Ian walked this line beautifully last week – listening to several of his interviews and following his comments on Twitter, you never got the sense that he wanted to be the story. What was important was the research and bringing the events to light. It would have been easy to engage in self-promotion or to champion himself as a great researcher/writer, but that never happened.)

I’ll leave it to more qualified people to analyze the scope of the research and its impact, but what became painfully apparent to me was the importance of history. As was pointed out on Twitter, there is some irony in the fact that such an important story is culled from LAC at a time when the institution is struggling to cope with budget cuts.

Ten years ago I graduated high school and enrolled at Nipissing University to study history. Two degrees and a partially written doctoral thesis later, the most common question I’ve been asked over the years is ‘why bother?’ Too often, I’ve had difficulty answering that question to the satisfaction of the questioner. In spending a summer working on the airfield at Pearson International, many of my colleagues objected when I (repeatedly) suggested that history can help inform modern life – from social reforms to economic policy to international diplomacy. I was told that ‘no, it doesn’t, what happened 100 years ago is completely irrelevant to today.’

My hope is that last week’s revelations – in additional to forcing the government to address the issues at hand – changes the minds of the people who think that history has no place in public life. The work of the historian and historical institutions matter and can have a significant effect on how we live. History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.

In this episode of the History Slam podcast I talk with CHA President Dominique Marshall and CHA Past President Lyle Dick about budget cuts that have had such a significant impact on the study of history in Canada. We chat about the situation at LAC, the CHA’s response, and how historians can increase their presence. While this was recorded at Congress in June, last week’s events speak to the issues we talked about and provide a major example of the importance of historical research in general –and of LAC in particular.

As this was recorded well before last week’s cabinet shuffle, I did reach out to then Minister of Heritage James Moore for an interview. The request was denied, but a statement regarding LAC was provided:

“This government is delivering to give Canadians greater access to its history – more than any other previous government. On the issue of the preservation of our country’s history, our government strongly believes in ensuring the preservation of our documentary and historical heritage. Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is becoming more efficient while also improving services. In fact now all Canadians will be able to access our historical content online, not just researchers in Ottawa. The Library and Archives modernization initiative will improve and expand access to Canada’s documentary and cultural heritage for all Canadians regardless of their profession or location.

Our government recognizes the importance of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and the many services it provides, as it plays an essential role in preserving the documentary heritage of Canada. As a Departmental agency, the responsibility for operational decisions lies with the Deputy Head and Librarian and Archivist of Canada. Under his stewardship, LAC is modernizing its operations and changing its organizational structure in order to increase digital services and programming for the benefit of Canadians. LAC has never ceased to make key acquisitions as this priority is clearly set out in its mandate. Every year, LAC acquires thousands of items from private fond and an average of 100,000 publications. And, more recently an average of 60-thousand digital publications. For example, LAC just recently acquired the first complete and authorized version of the Bible to be published in Canada, a book dating back to the 1830s.

LAC is developing a new model to ensure that they make the right decisions at the right time in order that Canada’s documentary heritage is acquired and preserved for future generations. Through this approach, LAC is concentrating more extensively on obtaining all socially relevant content rather than acquiring objects taken out of context.”

The statement was provided prior to the resignation of Daniel Caron as Librarian and Archivist of Canada, which is to whom the Minister is referring in the statement.

Sean Graham is a doctoral candidate at the University of Ottawa where he is currently working on a project that examines the early years of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He has previously studied at Nipissing University, the University of the West Indies, and the University of Regina.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

American Liberalism and the national security state

From Wikileaks to the NSA exposé, the national security state unravels, despite liberal apologists.

July 24, 2013

by Deepa Kumar, associate professor of Media Studies and Middle East studies at Rutgers University.

Cornell West, on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, reiterated his criticism that President Obama is a "war criminal" for killing innocent people through drone strikes. He went on to make a simple, but rarely heard observation, that, if you "have an empire, you’re going to have war crimes".

Critical voices like his are an exception in the mainstream. For the most part, establishment liberals have either been silent or have cheered on as Obama has expanded the national security state. West chastises liberals as "morally bankrupt" for giving Obama a pass for the same things that Bush was criticized for.

The reception of the NSA leaks is only the most recent illustration of this trend. Rather than criticise the gross abuse of power by government, a smear campaign was orchestrated first against Snowden and then journalist Glenn Greenwald.

From Mika Brezeznski on MSNBC using, as Greenwald states "White House talking points" to downplay the significance of the leaks, to David Gregory of NBC asking why Greenwald shouldn’t be charged as a criminal, the liberal establishment media and their "experts" faithfully defended the White House. Instead of acting as the "watchdog of the government", the corporate media acted as attack dogs for the government.

The public, however, has responded differently to the on-going revelations. 55 percent of Americans believe that Snowden is a whistle-blower, as opposed to a "traitor", and in a dramatic reversal, far greater numbers believe that the government has gone too far in violating civil liberties.

The machinery of liberal imperialism and the rhetorical shift orchestrated by the Obama administration is beginning to decay.

Liberal imperialism

Towards the end of Bush’s second term, the credibility of the US had been badly damaged on the world stage. Sections of the political elite had begun to strategise about how to rehabilitate empire’s image.

In 2007, a leadership group headed by Madeleine Albright produced a document titled "Changing Course: A New Direction for US Relations with the Muslim World". The document states that to defeat "violent extremists", military force was necessary but not sufficient, and that the US needed to forge "diplomatic, political, economic, and cultural initiatives". In short, both "hard" and "soft" power was needed.

It rejected the Bush-era "clash of civilisations" framework and advised the next president to talk about improving relations with Muslim-majority countries in his or her inaugural speech and reaffirm the US’s "commitment to prohibit all forms of torture".

Obama did exactly that. From his inaugural speech to the speech in Cairo he echoed these themes emphasising the positive contributions of Muslims to human history. His administration dropped the term "Global War on Terror" and replaced it with the innocuous "Overseas Contingency Operations", all the while critiquing torture and upholding liberal human rights principles.

Yet, liberal rhetoric by itself was not enough. The retreat from Iraq, and the Afghan quagmire, prompted a shift in imperial thinking from conventional warfare to largely invisible mechanisms of coercion.

Analysing the 2012 Defense Planning Guidance document in my book Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire, I argued that the era of large scale warfare was over, and instead "the new phase of Obama’s imperial posture involves re-establishing US hegemony…through multilateral alliances and the use of air strikes, drone attacks, and counterterrorism and special operations forces as well as cyber warfare".

The Empire’s Old/New Clothes

Obama launched what has been called a "smarter" war on terror, using the tools developed by the Bush administration. Yet, this shift has been kept from the public. However, from Wikileaks on we have entered a period where whistleblowers and investigative journalists are rendering the emperor’s clothes visible.

The prison at Guantanamo bay became a symbol of Bush’s excesses, and yet despite promises to the contrary it remains open. Obama issued an executive order to close down the notorious CIA "black sites", where torture was rampant. Journalist Anand Gopal, however, revealed that the US continues to maintain several secret prisons in Afghanistan where torture continues. Jeremy Scahill in his book Dirty Warsunearthed another such prison in Somalia.

It is hard to say how many more there are in other countries. But these revelations shed light on why the Obama administration has not prosecuted a single Bush administration official for torture. In fact, it has granted immunity to these officials.

When Bush indefinitely detained prisoners stripping them of their habeas corpus rights, he was rightly denounced by liberals. Yet, when Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA) that not only institutionalises this process but also expands its use to US citizens there was little criticism.

Rumsfeld and Cheney created a top secret killing machine out of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) which travelled around the world assassinating people at will without Congressional oversight or public discussion. Obama embraced and systematised this.

As Scahill observes, the Obama administration inherited from Bush a set of covert and clandestine programs marked by infighting between various agencies, particularly the CIA and JSOC. Obama would bring in Bush-era officials to create a seamless, integrated, and expanded global assassination program.

Obama has dramatically escalated drone strikes around the world; heinously, he also ordered the assassination of US citizens. Without due process, the US-born radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki was executed in Yemen; a few weeks later his teenage son was killed in a "signature" strike.

The IT war has also been relentless. When the Bush administration announced the Total Information Awareness (TIA) program of intrusive data gathering and mining, it was rightly denounced as the first coming of Big Brother. As the ongoing NSA leaks show, under Obama a program of even greater width and depth is now a reality.

The Obama administration has also escalated cyberwarfare using militarised computer viruses to attack computers in Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities. Journalist Nick Turse notes in his book, The Changing Face of Empire, that while these efforts were begun under Bush, "President Obama…became the first American commander-in-chief to order sustained cyberattacks designed to cripple another country’s infrastructure".

This reconfiguration of empire has been largely kept under wraps in order to maintain Obama’s liberal posture. It is therefore not surprising that he has prosecuted whistle blowers at a rate higher than all previous US presidents combined.

Additionally, as McClatchy newspapers revealed, federal employees will be asked to spy on each other and tattle when they identify a potential leaker. Known as the "Insider Threat" program, this will apply not only to security establishment workers but also those in the Department of Agriculture, EPA, etc.

For Obama secrecy is vital since his entire presidency has rested on saying one thing and doing another; on liberal rhetoric and imperial actions. At root, his foreign policy still relies on "keeping Americans safe" from the menacing Islamic terrorist threat.

The way forward

At the end of the day, as the great historian Richard Hofstradter teaches us in The American Political Tradition there are very few substantive differences between the main political parties. While they "differ, sometimes bitterly, over current issues…they also share a general framework of ideas". This "range of ideas…is limited by the climate of opinion that sustains their culture".

Creating this "climate of opinion" is the responsibility of brave citizens and legislators. Frank Church, who headed a committee to study government excesses, warned of the dangers of NSA surveillance stating that it could "make tyranny total in America". On the FBI’s COINTELPRO used to spy on 1960s activists, including the pacifist Martin Luther King, the Church report stated that the "techniques used [are] intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity".The result was a curtailment of government spying.

Today, it is our responsibility to shift the culture in the US to bring an end not only to surveillance but also empire and the national security state.

Surah Saba' recited by Mishary bin Rashid Al-Afasy

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

Enemy lists? An open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper


JULY 24, 2013

Dear Prime Minister,

We are writing to you on behalf of Voices-Voix, a coalition of more than 200 national and local civil society organizations across the country. We are seriously concerned about recent reports that your office had instructed government officials to compile "friend and enemy stakeholder" lists as part of the process of preparing briefing materials for new members of Cabinet.

Prime Minister, we are in particular deeply troubled about the use of the term "enemy"; seemingly to describe individuals or organizations with views critical of or in opposition to government policies and initiatives. We call on you, as a matter of urgency, to make it clear that any such lists already compiled will not be used, no further lists will be prepared and that there is no place for such terminology in describing how the government perceives its critics. Instead, it is vital that Canadians hear unequivocally and personally from you, acknowledging that your government accepts and welcomes opposition and disagreement as an essential dimension to developing strong public policy and maintaining a vibrant democracy.

Voices-Voix came together in 2010, reflective of growing concern that the space for civil society dissent and advocacy with respect to a range of critical social and public policy matters in Canada -- including women’s equality, the environment and other human rights issues -- has become significantly constrained, both directly and indirectly, through a variety of government decisions and actions in recent years.

We have researched and documented numerous instances of individuals and groups suffering serious financial, organizational and professional consequences because they have disagreed with the government. We have also sought to engage with government, parliamentarians and the public with an eye to building deeper understanding of the crucial importance of ensuring that individuals, communities and organizations reflective of diverse and critical views are able to participate in public debates and discourse without fear of repercussion and with government support when necessary.

Given Voices-Voix' focus on shoring up and bolstering the space for civil society advocacy and dissent in Canada, the news of the "enemy stakeholder" list is obviously of very serious concern. At a time when many organizations and individuals are already nervous about publicly expressing disagreement with the government, additional hesitation that they may be labelled an "enemy" for doing so will inevitably increase that level of trepidation. That in turn has very real implications for fundamental rights protected under international human rights law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

This is of course worrying when it comes to the discussion and debate that is needed regarding the particular environmental, human rights and other issues that may be at stake; it is worrying more widely as well though with respect to the state of democracy in Canada. Plain and simple, in a healthy democracy government does not publicly talk of its critics and detractors as enemies.

Prime Minister, civil society organizations across the country are waiting to see you demonstrate and assert the urgent leadership that is needed in the wake of the revelation of this intention to prepare enemy stakeholder lists; leadership that affirms and appreciates the work we do. As such, we call on you to:

1. Make public any "enemy stakeholder" lists that may already have been compiled, confirm that such lists will not be used by the government, and make an unequivocal commitment to prepare no other such lists.

2. State publicly that the government acknowledges and unequivocally welcomes the essential role of civil society in Canada across a range of activities, including service delivery, research and advocacy.

3. Proactively seek regular opportunities to clearly state that the government does not see civil society groups that may be critical of government policies or initiatives as enemies, but rather as important partners in developing and delivering sound public policy and programs.

4. Convene a multi-sector government/civil society roundtable process tasked with identifying measures that would strengthen the independence and better support the work of civil society groups in Canada.

The news that some members of government view civil society critics as enemies has become a source of considerable worry and consternation. It can now serve as an opportunity for the government to renew that relationship, so as to bolster the many essential contributions that civil society groups make to both developing better understanding and addressing pressing social needs locally and nationally right across the country.

Representatives of the Voices-Voix Coalition would welcome an opportunity to meet with you and/or other government representatives to discuss our concerns and recommendations further. 


On behalf of the Voices-Voix Coalition Steering Committee

Alex Neve
Secretary General
Amnesty International Canada

Béatrice Vaugrante
Directrice Générale
Amnistie International Canada francophone

Robert Fox
Executive Director
Oxfam Canada

Leilani Farha
Executive Director
Canada Without Poverty Advocacy Network

Pearl Eliadis
Barrister and Solicitor
Lecturer, Faculty of Law, McGill University

Charis Kamphuis
Research Network on Dissent, Democracy and the Law

Julia Sanchez
Canadian Council for International Cooperation

Michel Lambert
Directeur général

My Ramadan Blog -- Day 15

By S. N. Smith

Narrated By Ibn 'Abbas RA: 
The Prophet (PBUH) was the most generous person, and he used to become more so (generous) particularly in the month of Ramadan because Gabriel used to meet him every night of the month of Ramadan till it elapsed. Allah's Apostle (PBUH) used to recite the Qur'an for him. When Gabriel met him, he used to become more generous than the fast wind in doing good.  [Bukhari]
Narrated Abu Muisa Al-Ash'ari: The Prophet said, "Feed the hungry, visit the sick, and set free the captives."  [Bukhari]

وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ ۚ وَمَا تُقَدِّمُوا لِأَنفُسِكُم مِّنْ خَيْرٍ تَجِدُوهُ عِندَ اللَّهِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ --- "And be steadfast in prayer and regular in charity: And whatever good you send forth for your souls before you, you shall find it with Allah: for Allah sees Well all that you do." (Quran: 2:110)

Ramadan is a month of generosity. Those observant Muslims who possess the ability to do so, significantly increase their giving during Ramadan with a view to seeking a reward from Allah. They do so knowing full well that all sustenance and ultimate reward comes from Allah and no one else. Allah says in the Quran, قُلْ إِنَّ رَبِّي يَبْسُطُ الرِّزْقَ لِمَن يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ وَيَقْدِرُ لَهُ ۚ وَمَا أَنفَقْتُم مِّن شَيْءٍ فَهُوَ يُخْلِفُهُ ۖ وَهُوَ خَيْرُ الرَّازِقِينَ -- "Say: Verily my Lord enlarges and restricts the Sustenance to such of his servants as He pleases: and nothing do you spend in the least (in His cause) but He replaces it: for He is the Best of those who grant Sustenance." (34:39) And the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)  said, “Whoever fasts during Ramadan with faith and seeking reward and blessings (from Allah) his/her previous sins will be forgiven.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

The ultimate example of generosity, for Muslims, is the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who increased his giving during Ramadan. Observant Muslims seek to emulate him (PBUH) in this practice and loosen their purse strings and give to various charitable causes.

In today's blog entry, which marks the half-way point of the month long fast, I want to briefly discuss the topic of giving and where I prefer to give.

One of the main reasons that Muslims give in charity, especially in Ramadan, is that doing so is a means by which to express thankfulness to Allah for the blessings in their lives. In addition, in giving in charity, Muslims seek to gain forgiveness from Allah for any past transgressions they may have committed, as well as increase their sense of Rahmah (mercy / compassion) towards those who are less fortunate. 

During this month, Muslims will be confronted with many appeals to give to various causes and they will be forced to decide which ones to donate as it would be impossible, for most people, to contribute to every single cause. Personally, I like to give to one or two causes, but do so generously. I prefer to give locally as I witness a lot of poverty and privation all around me and I have a hard time justifying sending money off somewhere else, building a Mosque or giving to some other institution, when people in my immediate community are literally hungry. For me, the first and foremost priority is to take care of the physical needs of those who are in need before any other consideration. I like to make food packages and then deliver them into less advantaged neighborhoods in my city, and I feel really good about doing so. I cannot give as much as I would like, but there is a deep satisfaction when I hand a food parcel over to someone who is financially struggling, and I am immediately reminded that I could easily be in their place and need help some day. Allah knows that if I had more money, I would deliver even more of these packages to the needy in my community.

I think there seems to be a widespread belief that poverty does not exist here in Canada and the US, but I invite you to visit the website Canada Without Poverty which dispels that myth. Specifically, visit their "just the facts" section which reveals, among other things, that in 2012, a record 882,000 Canadians used food banks each month, the highest level of food bank usage ever, and that 47% percent of Canadians state “they would be in financial difficulty if their paycheque was delayed by a week". The problem becomes exacerbated for racialized groups and recent immigrants, such as Muslims, who, according to a 2011 study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives & the Wellesley Institute, are more likely to be in poverty, have low paying jobs or be unemployed compared to the non-racialized Canadian population.

And for the US, I invite you to read Rose Aguilar's piece entitled "Richest country’s empty plates" in which she reports that 50 million Americans, including one in six children, who either go to bed hungry or cannot afford nutrition food. She encourages her readers to watch, "A Place at the Table", a documentary about the growing problem of hunger in the wealthiest country on earth, and" then spend a week with a mom who cries as she stirs yet another bowl of pasta covered in canned tomato paste, or a child who is so hungry, she goes to bed with a tummy ache."

Once again, I am reminded of the many ahadeeth emphasizing the rights of our neighbors, one which says that, "Anas (may Allah be pleased with him.), the Prophet (PBUH) said 'He has not affirmed faith in me (i.e. he is not a true follower) who eats to his satisfaction and sleeps comfortably at night white his neighbor goes hungry - and he is aware of it.'"

And who is more of a neighbor other than those who live in my community, close to where I live?

With this thought in mind, below I want to share with you an article I wrote way back in January, 2005.  I hope it will encourage you to be sensitive to the sufferings of those in need in your immediate surroundings, and that this Ramadan you begin to give locally. Read on.......

The Poor And Weak Amoung Us

All around us we see them. The poor, the weak, the sick and the destitute. It is no fault of their own that they are in their current situation, but it is what the destiny of Allah has handed out to them. If it were not for the mercy of Allah we too would be in their situation. But that does not mean that those who are better off do not have a responsibility towards those less fortunate in life. In fact, according to the noble teachings of Islam, Muslims have a great responsibility in this regard and that the weak and poor may even be the source of our provision and  ultimate salvation from the fire!

Let me share with you a hadeeth (saying) of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Narrated Abud- Darda: Allah's Messenger (pbuh) said, "Seek me amoung your weak ones, for you are given provision and help only because of the weak amoungst you (Abu Dawud)

In seems counter intuitive that the weak and the poor would be the source of our provision, as with our human thinking we may be inclined to see them as a burden or a hindrance in our life's goals. But the Prophet (phuh) clearly stated that  we are given provision and help only because of the weak amoung us. This simple sentence implies many things including: 1) That we should seek Allah among the weak and the poor, which means that we have to seek them out and not wait for them to come to us for help, 2) that we have a moral and religious responsibility towards them, and 3) that Allah's help and provision only comes as as we fulfill our duty to the them and help them to the best of our abilities.

There are numerous a-hadeeth and Quranic verses about helping the poor and the weak amoung us and we read them on a regular basis, but yet we continue to fail to grasp their true meanings. If we are looking for the forgiveness and mercy of Allah, however, then we must first remember the weak and poor in all of our efforts.

Narrated Abu Hurariah: Allah's Messenger (pbuh) said, The one who strives to help the widows and the poor is like the one who fights in the way of Allah." The narrator said: I think he also said: "I shall regard him as the one  who stands up (for prayer) without rest and as the one who observes fasts continuously." (Bukhari and Muslim)

In  a world where getting more means success, Allah and His Messenger (PBUH) reminds us that our provisions will come only as we help the poor and weak amoung us. Just read the two following a-hadeeth as a reminder of this fact:

Ibn `Umar (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "A Muslim is a brother of (another) Muslim, he neither wrongs him nor does hand him over to one who does him wrong. If anyone fulfills his brother's needs, Allah will fulfill his needs; if one relieves a Muslim of his troubles, Allah will relieve his troubles on the Day of Resurrection; and if anyone covers up a Muslim (his sins), Allah will cover him up (his sins) on the Resurrection Day". [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].


Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (PBUH) said, "He who removes from a believer one of his difficulties of this world, Allah will remove one of his troubles on the Day of Resurrection; and he who finds relief for a hard-pressed person, Allah will make things easy for him on the Day of Resurrection; he who covers up (the faults and sins) of a Muslim, Allah will cover up (his faults and sins) in this world and in the Hereafter. Allah supports His slave as long as the slave is supportive of his brother; and he who treads the path in search of knowledge, Allah makes that path easy, leading to Jannah for him; the people who assemble in one of the houses of Allah, reciting the Book of Allah, learning it and teaching, there descends upon them the tranquility  and mercy covers them, the angels flock around them, and Allah mentions them in the presence of those near Him; and he who lags behind in doing good deeds, his noble lineage will not make him go ahead.'' [Muslim]

Maybe, my dear brothers and sisters, we may at times be inclined to associate ourselves with those possessing wealth and status in this life and fail to grasp the reality that in helping the poor and destitute this is where will will find Allah and the source of our eternal salvation.

Oh Allah, help us to remember the weak and disadvantaged among us and may we do all we can to help them to ease their discomfort, sufferings and sources of worry and forgive us for any shortcomings we have committed in this matter. Oh Allah, help us to be compassionate towards others less fortunate than us and never let us forget the source of our provisions.

Allah says in the Holy Quran:" O ye who believe! bow down, prostrate yourselves, and adore your Lord; and do good; that ye may prosper." (Quran 22:77)