Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Intrigue of Snow

For newcomers to old man winter's areas, snow is indeed new, and for the kids, its also intriguing and an opportunity to have a blast... so this winter is their first one in the Northeast, and they are savoring every moment. Forget that dad has to shovel the driveway. Forget that the dreary winter seems to be dragging on almost forever, bringing with it not only bitter cold on the outside, but also affecting internal human systems (is it only me or does winter depress moods a bit??).

Forget all that! Aboodi and Reemo have a snowman to keep up with... Check it out for yourself, he looks pretty cool!

And we Thought we Had it Hard...

I came across this post/blog of a family that lost a 12-year girl; a sister and a daughter named Asma. As I read the story posted by the brother a few days after her death, I could not control my tears as I imagined the pain this brother and his family went through and have been going through. Losing a family member at such a tender age, right at the cusp of adulthood, is so devastating emotionally. And I can only imagine, because I have never had to live through it. And I ask Allah's mercy and forgiveness against such a calamity.

When we read these true moments of heart-felt pain, it should remind us of our weakness, our mortality, and should put our own griefs, troubles and difficulties in perspective. We have so much thank for, and so little to be aggrieved for.

Take a moment to read this story, and other entries on Br. Omar Haq's blog and Asma/Omar's sister's blog. Make dua' for their little sister, for their family and for all the Muslims who have encountered such a loss or have a terminally sick family member. Leave a comment if you wish. After that, let's reflect on our own state, and thank Allah for everything we have.

The link to Omar's post around Asma's death
The link to Omar's post "after 2 years"
The link to Asma's sister's post "oh Asmi"

Friday, February 23, 2007

JUST (don't) DO IT!

With the approach of Rabi-ul-Awal, the topic of mawlid (celebrating the Prophet S's birthday) is heating up again. Since it has been made into a controversial issue (while the facts would seemingly say that this should be a non-issue), I will try to stick to my goal of 'keep it simple, stupid' in matters of relevance to the average layman.

Let's look at mawlid ('Milaad an-nabee' in Urdu) from three perspectives:
1) Did the Prophet (S), Sahabah, Tabiyeen (the generation proceeding Sahaba), Tabe-Tabiyeen (the next generation), or any of the 4 Imams condone it or practice it?
*Answer: No, there is absolutely no evidence of the mawlid practice from these generations.

2) Were the people who started mawlid upon the mainstream Ahl-Sunnah methodology?
*Answer: No, in fact they were not even Sunnis! The first recorded celebrations of his birth occurred during the latter part of Shia Fatimid rule in Egypt (909–1171).

3) What do the scholars say?
*Answer: This is where some of the controversy has taken shape. Opinions of scholars vary from the celebrations being disallowed (e.g. Sh. Bin Baz and Mufti Taqi Uthmani) to mubah (e.g. a recent eloquent fatwa from Sh. Ibn Bayyah) all the way to mustahab (mostly braelwis and more extreme sufis).

Based on (1) and (2), it should be sufficient to raise MAJOR flags against the celebration. In fact, those two should be sufficient for us. Even if we were to consider (3), it is still perfectly clear that there are no scholars (even among extremes that I could find) who says that it is waajib (obligation). So, why risk it?

I admit that we depend on our scholars to guide us, since they are indeed the inheritors of the Prophets. And I have already shown that the 4 greatest scholars, the 4 Imams did not practice this either. However, many great scholars and Imams afterwards did allow it, so that should be considered. For this purpose, I'd like for us to use some simple logic to locate the "safe" choice. Sometimes, when we see differences of opinions, it is to our advantage to stay away from the doubtful matters, for the purposes of avoiding sin, even at the sake of losing risky reward.

First, lets assume Mawlid was indeed a sin and a blameworthy innovation:
(a) By not doing it, you have earned yourself some ajr (reward by avoiding sin).
(b) By doing it, you may be sinful (since blameworthy innovations are worse than sins, the sin may be of a greater level).

Now lets assume Mawlid was the extreme opposite, i.e. mustahab (recommended):
(c) By not doing it, you have earned yourself neither sin nor reward.
(d) By doing it, you have earned yourself reward.

Conclusion: The person who does not partake in the celebration of mawlid is subject to either (a) reward or (c) nothing. While the person who does partake in mawlid is subject to either (b) possible sin or (d) reward. So, the logical SAFE choice is the first one, which avoids all chances of sin, and has the possibility of reward, so JUST (don't) DO IT!

We can also discuss innovations for a bit. Pretty much everyone admits that the mawlid is indeed an bidah (innovation). Sh. Ibn Bayyah in the fatwa clearly states that it is NOT the sunnah, which means it is a bidah. The question comes down to whether this is a blameworthy bidah or not. The scholars that allow it consider this to be a bidah hasanah or a good bidah, while other scholars do not believe that something like 'bidah hasanah' in matters of religion exists. For the latter, bidah in deen (as opposed to the 'worldly' innovation such as cars, etc. that are ok) is blameworthy regardless of intentions. Ibn Taymiyyah gives some room for intentions as seen in the entirety of fatwa here (skip to #9 post). Here are a couple of other good reads on innovation being blameworthy (#1 and #2).

As for intentions, this is another gray area. We know that all actions are by intentions (Hadith), however, we also know that the act has to be in accordance with the Shariah to have it accepted, regardless of intention. For instance, can I choose to pray 3 rakah for tahiyat-ul-masjid (instead of the 2 rakahs sunnah) for the sake of 'increasing' reward; indeed a good intention? Everyone will respond with 'of course not'. Thus, that is a simple proof for intentions not being sufficient to make an act praiseworthy.

Bottom-line, in a confusing world, it is best to be safe. To be safe in deen is to be cool :) ! So, my dear brothers and sisters, JUST (don't) DO IT!

Injustice, Injustice, Injustice!

He [Paul Cortez], James Barker and Steven Green had their eye on a farmhouse near their checkpoint in Mahmudiya, near Baghdad. They visited it before the attack and behaved so lasciviously around Abeer Qasim al-Janabi that she was sent to sleep at a neighbour's house. They made their move in broad daylight, when Abeer's parents and five-year-old sister were also home. Cortez told the court that Green took the three into a bedroom while Cortez and Barker took turns raping Abeer in the living room.

"She kept trying to keep her legs closed and saying stuff in Arabic," Cortez said. "During the time me and Barker were raping Abeer, I heard gunshots that came from the bedroom. After Barker was done, Green came out and said that he had killed them all... Green then placed himself between Abeer's legs to rape her."

Green shot the girl dead too, at which point the soldiers set her on fire.
[From the Independent]

Sgt. Paul Cortez, one of the five men, being court-martialled for raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and killing her family in March 2006 received what would be an unjust outrageously light sentence, by any standard of fairness. While the papers and news tickers are screaming "Soldier sentenced to 100 years in prison", the truth in fact is that Cortez could be free on parole in only 10 years!

Consider for a minute the circumstances of this brutal rape and murder. And then tell me, doesn't this deserve human outrage? Not just Muslims, but especially Muslims. How can it be that a rape of a 12-year old Japanese girl justified what was called a 'light' sentence of 7 years in Japanese prisons, while the gang-rape, murder of this 14-year old Iraqi girl and the murder of her father, her mother, and her 5-year old sister wasn't enough to justify a life-sentence at the least, let alone the death penalty? How will America justify this light treatment of the heinous crime to the rest of the world, especially to the Iraqis? What a farce! What Injustice!
Inna lillahi wa innah alehi raajioon.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Isam Rajab's TV Appearance on PBS Online Now!

Ibn alHyderabadee was on top of this one... here is the video, Sh. Isam (a Texas Dawah speaker, Arees Founder, and ISGH Imam) seems to have done his homework! ENJOY (and learn)...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ok, the Niqab is Out...

By a Margin of 56.7% in favor, and 43.3% against, the participants at the Doha Debates have booted the Niqab out. Those in favor were 'Lord' Ahmed of Rotherham and Reem Maghribi, founder of Al Sharq, the English language British-Arab culture and lifestyle magazine.

What a relief! Phew... Now, all the niqabis can take their niqab off, because the mandate has been delivered.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? Give me a BIG break folks! Doha debates idiots: do you really believe that the niqab or any other Islamic ensemble or Islamic issue is up for debates between people who don't have any real Islamic knowledge? Do you really think that Muslim women just wear the niqab, because they like it so much just to undergo the daily looks and stares? Do you really think if it was only cultural, we wouldn't be smart to figure that out?? Remember too, Doha-debate geniuses: The difference of opinion among the people of Sunnah is limited to two: (1) It is obligatory or (2) it is optional but mustahab (recommended). The third opinion that it is only cultural is the pro-regressive, Western brown-nosing, "we are different from everyone else" opinion, which has absolutely no backing in Islamic jurisprudence.

While I am a bit disappointed that "Lord" Ahmed wants the niqab out, it is almost hilarous that Ms. Maghribi is on the same side. I mean what do you expect from this pro-regressive woman, who does not even wear the hijab! Check her 'young and energetic' team... does it even look like that she cares about Muslim issues, let alone have any right to discuss the niqab?? I mean are you going to let George Bush or Dick Cheney vote too? In fact, give Condi a special place on the table, I wonder which way she will vote, hmm.... What right does Maghribi or for that matter ANYONE have to vote what is right for Muslim women or not? Since it is an insult to real Muslims to have someone like Maghribi be part of a discussion that involves practicing Muslims as opposed to her obvious position, I don't think it is particularly beneficial to even bother about her. She should focus on her magazine and continue 'modernizing' Arabs so that they can fully leave Islam and adopt the Western mold that she has adopted.

On the other hand, Lord Ahmed's inclusion on the wrong side was a bit surprising, he wants it out because it is a barrier to integrating Muslims, a religious symbol of separation, hmm... And the point is?? Muslims don't want to assimilate Mr. Ahmed. We want to maintain our Muslim identities, but who told you that it meant that we cannot contribute to the society we live in. In a multi-cultural, diverse, dynamic society, many groups and many races, each with their lifestyles can contribute without losing their identities.

“I don’t want it (Niqab) to be banned by law but I am calling for a sensible debate on the issue,” Ahmed said, referring to the ban imposed by France and some other European countries on wearing face veil in offices, schools etc. He noted that 57 per cent of the British public feel that Muslims are not integrated to the British society and 67 per cent of them supported Jack Straw who triggered a debate on the issue by calling Muslim women to keep away from wearing the face veil.

Ok, so Mr. Ahmed, WHY stop at the niqab? If 67% of the British society starts supporting the call to remove the hijab (the head scarf), should we consider that open-game as well? Where would you draw the line? Why is that Muslim women have been wearing the scarves and the niqabs forever and only now has it become an issue??

Mr. Ahmed, your nose is already too bloody with the brown-nosing... just stop it bro, it is getting embarrassing.

On the flip side of these nonsensical debates comes a beautiful article by Sr. Sahar Ullah, a student at the prestigious University of Chicago, on her reflections about the niqab during her undergrad years. Check it out for yourself and give her major props.

Monday, February 19, 2007

When Will They Condemn?

Have you ever wondered why Muslims are asked ad nauseam to condemn violence against innocent people? Yet, all our major Islamic organizations (CAIR/ ISNA/ ICNA/ TDC/ ETC.) are ignored, even though they have condemned and continue to condemn? Why the condemnations that we have already expressed never seem enough?

NOW, it is our turn to tables a bit, and ask the Russians, the Israelis, the Indians, and all those who are torturing and killing innocent human beings around the world, why are you not condemning the actions of your fellow country-men/government? That these human beings are Muslims should not matter the least, even though I would be naive to actually believe that. Why are you not standing up against state-terrorism? And why limit it to these three nations, why don't you (all the "enlightened" citizens of the West), who keep prodding Muslims to have a march to condemn what we have NOTHING to do with, stand up and condemn what these ruthless states are doing to Muslims? Don't you see how these very real and sad images of inhumanity could be misused to feed the scourge of terrorism? On our part, we will continue to condemn the butchers who are acting in the name of Islam. But, the real question to our non-Muslim friends is, when will you condemn the terror in the name of States.

Post-Script: The video is from turntoislam.com, a prominent Islamic website. Since I don't speak Arabic, I cannot translate all that is narrated in the video for non-Arabic speaking viewers. However, much of it is in English, and the scenes of despair and loss are quite gut-wrenching. When we see such videos, we, as Muslims, should make dua' to Allah for the innocent souls that have departed and ask Allah to grant patience to their family members, and to seek protection of innocent civilians left behind. I remind everyone that these videos should never lead us to a greater injustice, of seeking revenge upon other innocents, or being unjust in our dealings with other human beings. Two harams never make a halal, and you can take that to the bank!

Swimming for Tawafٍ

The caption reads: A picture story of the Harram (sanctuary i.e. Kaba) taken in the year 1941. Rain fell so hard that the water level rose up to the black stone. And people had to do their tawaaf around the Kaba while swimming.

SubhanAllah, I can't even imagine swimming in an ihraam! Probably need to some special locking devices. And we know that this happened even in the times of the Sahaba, with Abdullah ibn Zubair having been narrated to have done.

Picture Stories on this Blog are being Collected HERE.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Chariots Final: Immigrants at the Marathon

The Chariots Part II: Immigrants and African-Americans
The Chariots Part I: At the Marathon...

This conclusion has indeed been an arduous task. To bring together the immigrants, especially the Muslims to the Marathon, only on paper, was complicated and difficult. To discuss a touchy matter all around in a useful format is always a challenge. Most of my writings here are in terms of generalizations, and I recognize that exceptions of course exist in every case. So, please do not consider your own example or the example of a few to discount the bigger picture, if that is the case of course. Comments were closed so far, but they will be open after this last chapter. I invite all the readers to feel empowered to correct me, to suggest different outlooks, and to offer ways and means to achieve what is being put forward.

Immigrants at the Marathon

The news was out, and it echoed around the world: the great race was on... and it was happening in the distant land of America. The prize was said to be unparalleled, and opportunities were rife, even at this stage of the race. It was a long marathon, longer than any other, why else would it be called the mother of all marathons? All around the globe, many young souls, some burdened by the inequalities in their own lands, some disillusioned by the lack of political and social empowerment, and some just seeking better life and education, were more so allured to what was billed as a 'life-changing' event. So, these souls prepared, trained and practiced. The cream of the crop from the 'developing' world got in line for the chance of their lifetime. They could run with the best, and both the organizers and these souls knew it.

As the internationals began their journey to the Marathon, the organizers were delighted by the global attention to their event. They were enthused by the international runners. These international runners piled in from around the world, and they marveled at the crowd and at the race. They felt the energy, and they tasted opportunity, and more and more, they felt they had made the right decision. A sense of elation propagated through this international crowd. They weren't disappointed initially, as they were plugged in with the crowd that was farthest ahead in the race. Not all, of course, received this welcome. Some who simple managed to cross the border because of their geographical location, who were not the most gifted of runners, had to sneak their way into the race. Most of these unfortunate souls found themselves with the crowd of the 'left-behinders'.

Among the racers, especially the internationals, there were many who believed in One God and His Messengers. These believers were slightly different than others. For reasons that would form an entire story of its own, they found themselves at the receiving end of inequities. For instance, they always found themselves on the outer curve of the track. While they started their race not too behind the front-runners, they could not help noticing that it was taking significantly greater effort to catch up after each of the track curves. When they shouted out about their indignities, the same patronizing voice that had shouted condescendingly to the 'left-behinders', spoke again, "You should thank us that we even let you join this race, if you don't like it, go back to where you came from. Remember that you brought this on yourself because a few of your 'brethren' cheated, hence, the rest of you have to suffer!" The international believers looked at each other with bewilderment. Some of them wondered why they escaped injustice for another form of it. Others wondered how the rules could be changed when they were set in stone by the founders of the Marathon; why someone would risk impairing and debasing the greatest race on earth? And yet others wondered whether the opportunities were now worth the indignities? Even more bewildered were the 'local' believers. They wondered out loud, "Which land do you want us to go to? We were born and bred here, many of us have ancestors who were on the original boats that arrived to the 'new world'" But their voices were drowned in the din, as the obnoxious voice continued to mock and insult the believers.

As a result of the numerous obstacles and the longer course, some of the believers started waning, but others kept strong, keeping up with the front-runners. The superior training and exceptional talent allowed them to force their own case. Then, out of the blue, the believers heard voices; this time of the courageous voices, calling out for help. Yes, some chariots were coming, and a few of the 'left-behinders' were being helped to get them 'in the race'. But, more help was needed as the chariots had just begun to arrive. The believers looked forward and then looked back. It would only take a bit of their energy to support the courageous voices. The believers were reminded by others amongst them that they were believers only until they were just; justice formed the crux of their beliefs. From being just to the Creator (by worshiping Him alone) to being just to the creation (by supporting the elimination of injustice). The courageous voices had let them know what had transpired with the barrier that caused a whole group of people to become the 'left-behinders'. A great injustice had transpired, and the believers now knew about it. It was up to them now, will they join the courageous voices in retrieving the chariots around them, to turn back the clock on injustice or will they just keep racing, unbothered? How many believers did, and how many believers will? That is for us to ask and for us to answer.

For many Muslims, affirmative action is an afterthought, usually in the negative form. As I discussed in Part II, most immigrants, Muslims included, remember their own usually partly struggles in order to dismiss the case for affirmation action.

I also recognize that many African-Americans have started to distance themselves from affirmative action, finding it humiliating or demeaning. However, you will find that many of these African-Americans 'have it made'; symbolizing those who darted off in the Marathon, and 'caught up' with the 'front-runners' due to extraordinary talent, phenomenal hard-work, good fortune, or some combination of the three.

However, with the Marathon analogy in the backdrop, I hope that the readers who felt or still feel differently, have at least achieved some sense of context on this issue. There are some undeniable facts in America's black history (pun intended). If you don't know it, read up on it here. Many of the blacks bought and brought to America were free men in Africa and many of them indeed were Muslims (similar to the international 'believers').

These slaves were treated as sub-humans, perhaps even worse than animals in terms of indignities. "Historical records indicate that some slaveowners were more cruel to slaves than others. Some slaveowners raped and whipped slaves, and even cut off limbs of slaves who tried to escape, while other slaveowners provided materially for their slaves and were less physically abusive. In many households, treatment of slaves varied with the slave's skin color. Darker-skinned slaves worked in the fields, while lighter-skinned slaves were made to work in the house and had better provisions."[Answers.com]

For hundreds of years, a whole nation was subjugated, based on the color of its skin. A similar situation transpired for the natives (American Indians), but that is another topic for another day. Blacks were swept under the mat for much of this nation's history. The mat was finally taken off a few decades ago, when the rules were changed to be the 'now' same for everyone. Is it fair and just then for anyone to assume that this whole nation will be able to compete immediately? Do we expect these 'left-behinders' to catch up with the 'front-runners' quickly and without any assistance? (Front-runners who are reaping the fruits of their ancestors who fashioned their fortunes on the backs of the slaves).

Everyone know its easy to make money if you already have it to start with. Donald Trump is free to invest his billions in all sorts of elite money-minting ventures, ventures that the average man cannot even touch. Similarly, the vicious cycle of poverty is unfortunately even more so resilient than the cycle of wealth. Rich and educated parents can and will provide opportunities-galore for their children, imparting to them education or wealth or a combination. Most importantly, these folks value the importance of education and its role in a capitalist society. On the other hand, how do we expect the poorest sector, those who just had the 'barrier' removed, to be real 'players' in this race of life? How do we expect them to recognize the value of education that their parents or grand-parents or preceding generations, were not able to receive? Most importantly, is it really just to expect that? Is it just not to do something to make up for the past sins, or to at least help alleviate some of their struggles as they try to catch up? Don't they deserve the chariots to pick them up and drop them at least where would have been had the barrier not been raised?

For Muslims, justice captures the essence of our faith as believers, and equality of all human beings forms the crux of the matter, as we see from the following:

"We sent aforetime our messengers with clear Signs and sent down with them the Book and the Balance, that men may stand forth in Justice." [Quran 57:25].
"O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female and have made you into nations and tribes for you to know one another. Truly, the noblest of you with God is the most pious.2 Truly, God is All-Knowing, All-Aware." [Quran 49:13]
"O people! Your God is one and your forefather (Adam) is one. An Arab is not better than a non-Arab and a non-Arab is not better than an Arab, and a red (i.e. white tinged with red) person is not better than a black person and a black person is not better than a red person, except in piety." [Hadith, Musnad Ahmed #22978]
"...And act justly. Truly, God loves those who are just." [Quran, 49:9]
To be just with those who we hate, "...And let not the hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety." [Quran, 5:8]

If we have adopted this country to be our home, then we cannot separate ourselves from the injustice that has occurred in its history, even if we had no role in it. This is because removing someone from the pangs of injustice, is still a part of a Muslim's responsibility, regardless of his role in causing that injustice. There are other lesser (in importance) reasons, some perhaps self-serving, for the involvement of Muslims in pushing affirmative action:

  • Muslims are now facing obstacles as well, small little reminders of what transpired here with African-Americans. We are on the outer curves of the Marathon, and our struggle is becoming harder and harder in achieving the same goals as the 'average' American. If anything, it should help us recognize the struggles of those who are faced a much larger barrier, and have found themselves so far behind.
  • Joining hands with the Black minority will join 'our' cause of injustices occurring with Muslims everyday to African-Americans' cause of injustice that is historically rooted, but continues to occur today (in the cycle of poverty).
  • By understanding the civil-rights movement, and being part of it, Muslims can learn methods and ways to push their own agenda for equal treatment of Muslims in America and around the world.
  • African-Americans, by far, as a 'group', are most receptive to the message of Islam. For one, many of their ancestors were Muslims, so it is a going back to roots of sorts, as in the case of Br. Hakim Ellis. And secondly, the message of truth has historically been most well-received by the less materialistically endowed. Many of the Prophet's (S) first followers were poor and desolate. So, if Muslims show their 'true colors' by being part of this cause, it will be an excellent source of walking dawah.
In closing, I truly believe that affirmative action is not a hand-out, rather it is the right of the African-Americans; to help them break away from the cycle of poverty and material inequality. The chariots after all symbolize hope and justice, and whether we will join the courageous civil rights movements to gather and distribute these chariots, is up to all of us.

Note added 2.19: I would be remiss to add that affirmative action is not the only way we can help. We can start or be part of organizations that help inner-city kids, join mentorship programs in schools located in poor neighborhoods, or assist people like Siraj Wahhaj in what he is doing in his community. I hope we will hear from brothers and sisters who can make more suggestions, beyond affirmative action.

I am sure that there are many more reasons why we should be part of this noble cause, and perhaps why we should not, and I hope to read them here in your comments.

Sunday 8PM on Houston PBS

Pls see this message from Br. Iesa Galloway from Houston:
Please tune-in on Sunday at 5PM to watch “The Connection.” This episode is a round table discussion on the nature and definitions of “good” & “evil.” This round table discussion features leading lectures and figures from the Houston community in; Islam, Christianity, Judaism & Philosophy. On this program ISGH Imam, Isam Rajab, founder of the Arees Institute and a featured Texas Dawah (TDC) speaker explains Islamic perspectives on the subject.

Please pass this message to your individual lists and ask the viewers to send Houston PBS a thank you Email. JazakAllahu Khairan,

Iesa Galloway
Board Member
The Freedom and Justice Foundation (F&J)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Chariots Part II: Immigrants and African-Americans

Previous Entry: The Chariots Part I: At the Marathon...

The purpose of my post is not to offend any member of any race. As I recount my experiences, I beg the indulgence of my readers in favor of the bigger message here and to come.

I landed in the States nearly less than two decades ago, as a newly minted FOB. I was only a teenager, arriving in America as a student, like many Pakistani immigrants who had preceded me. Non-immigrants, whose temporary plans would usually turn into permanent residency. I had many things to learn, many things to achieve. From the many 'new' areas to sort out, was the diversity of people around me.

Before my life in America, I was in the Middle East, raised in relatively comfortable circumstances. As they stood at the time, things were relatively homogeneous in Dubai. Yes, we had Indians, Bangladeshis, and other nationalities, but mostly we dealt with 'our own'. As for class and race, there was some of both. The class effect was in motion usually in the 'labor class' that came mostly from the sub-continent. Probably the majority of this 'lower class' was formed by people that we referred to as 'Malabaris'. Those who lived in the Gulf would probably be tickled by this reminder. 'Malabaris' were generally Indians from the Kerala/Tamil Southern regions of India, and I have no clue how this name came about, it just was. Mind you, these people were not idiots. They were smart, and almost all of them had high-school education. But, the journey for livelihood had brought them to Dubai, many in 'minimum-wage' type jobs. 'Malabaris' were not limited to labor only, many were in high-skill jobs as engineers and doctors. Nevertheless, I recount this experience for what class meant to me. For me, the servant at home (most people had servants, so this does not say much about one's status) was a 'malabari'. He was a Muslim, and his name was Yusuf. He prayed 5 times, and he was as honest one could be. He was from Madras I believe. I loved that guy, he was awesome. My mom often reminisces about how good Yusuf was in housework. We treated him well and with respect, alhamdulilah. That is something that my parents taught us; respect for servants, which wasn't the case for many others we knew. So, that was what class and status meant to me.

As for race, some of that came into being with a superiority that many Arabs felt they had over the 'labor' class from the Indian Sub-continent. It did not matter that most of the highly-skilled and professional class came from the same region... but for our Arab brethren, the point was simply that there were too many of us wanting to come there, so in their books, we were somewhat 'dispensable'.
And while many practiced this sort of discriminatory attitude, there were many more who did not have this jahiliya under their skins. Really, I don't wish to go into an Arab-bashing session here, that is not the purpose here. I don't know how I would have reacted had Pakistan been the land of opportunity and Arabs were filling lines to get a piece of the pie. Perhaps, I would have taken on some 'class superiority' of my own. I am not saying that we should recognize the lowness of this attitude in a human, let alone a Muslim, but at the same time, we should give all our brothers many excuses before attacking them.

Coming back to America then, the race divide is something that I had not really witnessed before. The few nuances of what I saw in the Middle-East were completely different. For one, they were not historically rooted. There was no 'slavery' of Pakistani/Indian labor as such. Yes, some of them were caught up in a vicious cycle of debts that made their circumstances almost as that of slaves. But, it wasn't the color of these people that got them where they found themselves. It was the livelihood, a decision usually by choice.

As I started living and breathing America, at first I picked up the stereotypes that were prevalent in the FOBs and even some second-generation immigrants. Now, interestingly, these stereotypes were not that different from what many 'red-necks' also believed in. This is how it usually went: "Blacks don't know how good they have it for them in America. Look at us, we made it, didn't we? We came here to the land of opportunity, and we are taking it in, and we are living the American dream. But, look at those losers. All they do is bum around, they are responsible for most of the crimes, they are always on TV for the wrong reasons. Look at what the '3rd wards' are filled with? Blacks, who else? And of course, be careful of 'them'. Don't get lost in one of 'their' neighborhoods." And the typical "The black guy driving the nice car is of course a drug-dealer, no ifs and buts about it" was a common feeling as well.

I remember even being somewhat open to the opinion that African-Americans just didn't have the brains developed enough, that it wasn't meant to be for them. We were kinder, of course, in our thinking about the black converts. After all, they had some brain to figure out the truth, in what we thought about as the exceptions.

Things changed, they had to change. Life's experiences have a way of teaching lessons. And fortunately for me, it happened sooner than later.

As I sat in my English class for International students, I befriended an African guy Mfon. He had to teach me how to pronounce his name properly. At first it didn't hit me, but I treated this guy differently in my perceptions, than the 'average' African-American. For some reason, blacks didn't cut it, but this guy, who was as black as any other black guy I ever met, was indeed 'cutting it'. He was smart, he was good, and he was better than me in English! Without knowing it, my stereotype was crashing in front of me. Being black was not a testimony to any mental strength or weakness. Being black was merely a skin pigmentation that had nothing to do with one's abilities. I saw it in my friend Mfon and he was to teach me many more lessons.

I remember sitting in the same English class with Mfon next to me. For some reason, the topic of crime came up. As someone never afraid to speak my mind, I proceeded to say something that was one of those moments-of-change that are permanently itched into your brain. I spoke out, in my mind thinking that what I was about to say was
in favor of blacks, "The reasons that blacks commit most of the crimes is because we haven't invested enough in their education". As I blurted this out, Mfon went into a frenzy, he found my comments highly repulsive. While I sought to voice my desire to 'help blacks', what stuck with Mfon was my stereotype that preceded it, "blacks commit most of the crimes". It was a long day, that day. As I stood, sat, argued, debated, discussed with Mfon, I started seeing my own folly. Mfon reminded me that much of the crime was indeed white-collar, committed not by blacks but by whites in Armani suits. He reminded me that what I saw on TV daily was what sold ads, my first lesson in corporate media. I rued my decision to say what I said that day, but I rejoice in what I learned till today. That was not the end of my metamorphosis.

As most immigrants who have done well for themselves, I joined the camps of those who were against affirmative action. I could not fathom why black folk needed anymore help than anyone else. I mean, we made it, why can't they? The fall back evidence was always, "look at our countries, there is no opportunity back in our lands... people would do anything to jump for such opportunities as those that exist in America".

But you see, there was and is a problem with both the view and those who hold it. I was living America from a perspective that was foreign to it, and from a perspective that had not lived America in the times of injustice. Not only did I not have a lack of any well-formed perspective, but more importantly, who was I to judge what was good for those whose ancestors had suffered in the land of 'opportunity'? As my thoughts matured, as I took myself out of the bubble of affluence that I had always enjoyed, as I witnessed other perspectives, as I understood (sometimes from direct contact) what had transpired in this country years before I was even born, I started to realize something. I started to recognize that my own ignorance of historical perspective, my own ignorance of human capabilities, my own ignorance of the vicious cycles of poverty and destitution, were indeed the undoing of my very perspective.

This of course had to change. And not just one perspective, but many others needed to change as well.

Next up: Immigrants at the Marathon

The Chariots Part I: At the Marathon...

Its the big Marathon, the mother of all marathons. The air is electrified as excitement ripples through. The challenge, the potential, and the hype. It's all there. The runners are ready. It's a balanced bunch, a few unfit here and there, but overall, a rather competitive field. The field of runners is separated, but no one is paying attention yet. Until of course a cordon is established and a small portion of the participants find themselves behind it. The gun goes off, and so do the runners. But, not all of them. The bunch behind the massive barrier can't go. They are rearing to join the rest of the runners, but they can't. They fret, they shout, and they scream. They cannot phantom any real reason why they can't race, but they are unable to budge the wall screening them, preventing them, from entering the race of their life.

As hope dims, and the remaining runners escape their eyesight, far, far away from them, someone starts to move the cordon. It has been a while...most runners are more than half way through. The bunch isn't paying much attention anymore. So, they find themselves a bit startled when the wall is suddenly gone. But the bunch is really not moving. Yes, a few dart off, but by and large, most are dragging. A voice that seems somewhat foreign screams to the bunch, shouting in a rather patronizing voice, "GO, what are you waiting for?". The voice continues to scream, reminding this bunch that the rules are the same now, it is equal opportunity from hereon. So, "go and win if you really want to", instead of being truthful and saying, "go win if you can". The voice is almost condescending; not almost, it is condescending. The marathon is coming to its closure. The bunch left behind is now jogging, not quite running, but some are hoping against hope for a miracle. But its getting too late for most, the unabated runners have almost made it.

Then from nowhere, voices of courage rise up, a few bring chariots to the race, with horses that are eager to run. They call to the 'left-behinders' to hitch a ride, only to catch up to their rightful place in the race, even if not all the way; just by a bit. Yet, these courageous bodies are mocked, ridiculed, and insulted. They are called cheats, they are accused of being 'unfair'. They are told that the late start that this bunch faced was history, it was time to be 'fair' now. Others more brazen mumbled that this bunch wouldn't have made it anyway, they weren't 'designed' to win. Many more felt this way but were afraid to speak. Perhaps they failed to see the failings of their own 'design' or more specifically their own 'programming'.

The Chariots Part II: Immigrants and African-Americans
The Chariots Final: Immigrants at the Marathon

Monday, February 12, 2007

What is an Identity Crisis?

This is going to be short. It's a question for the readers, and food for thought for those who contemplate. It is the question of our very identity, a crisis of sorts that many may have undergone, that many may be undergoing, and that many may undergo.

When is it that when you try to fit into a different mold from a mold that you feel you have worn out, when you change your ways sufficiently from what they were before until the new way is one that you don't sufficiently recognize, when you run away from your past to a future that isn't really you, when you say what you don't firmly believe in, or don't say what you would have said unabated, when your friends become liabilities and their opinions become embarrassments, when is that you are no longer you? When you aim for the stars, yet you have to hitch a ride in a vehicle that you don't really fit in, that you don't really belong in? But you are being pushed from every direction. Where a heap of people want you in that vehicle, and somehow you feel that you 'owe it to them', even though in your heart, it is not them that you are doing this for, but rather for own self?

When is it, when the real 'you' that got you to where you are now is no longer the real 'you', but is someone else? And then you stand alone, neither here nor there, just alone. When the friends you left behind have moved on, and the friends who hoard you now, are really friends with the person you really are not?

Stop. Contemplate. And ask yourself over and over again, "what is in for you in being someone else?" Should you go there and really, why would you want to go there?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

My Family's all Blogged Up!

So, today my wife Umm Reem officially joined the bandwagon. I guess she got sick of seeing me on the computer, so might as well do something beneficial at that time :) Other than my 10 mths old daughter, the whole family's blogging now (including the 6 and 9 yr olds). So, have a visit and sisters, pls introduce yourself if you will, and welcome another sister in Islam to the blogosphere. The address is: ummreem.wordpress.com

Friday, February 09, 2007

Humor Alert: Culture Study with Brother Irtiza Hasan

Hilarious, and some good insights. Irtiza has GUTS, and his performance at Texas Dawah (Late night with Irtiza) used many clips from this and was quite awesome!

Multaqa Ahl-Hadith in English Now!

For many blog readers who don't speak Arabic, you'll be asking Multaqa what? Multaqa ahl-hadith means the 'Meeting place of the Ahl-Hadith'. This website is one of the most popular discussion forums on the internet, but until now it was only in Arabic. To give you an idea of its popularity, consider these stats:

  • Created in 2001.
  • 18,000 members (despite moderated membership)
  • 80,000 topics and 500,000 posts!
  • 700 people online on average, up to a max. of 2100.
  • 2600 manuscripts online.
  • Over 10,000 books online.
  • Many students of knowledge online, incl. from US such as Waleed Idrees.
  • Yasir Q.'s testimonial "It is - from my limited knowledge of Arabic sites - the single most beneficial site I have come across, and Allah knows best...
  • A wide spectrum of visitors from the non ahl-hadith to the ahl-hadith discussing in a strictly academic format.
So... now the English version has JUST been kicked off. Amazingly, the brother who runs (Sh. Haitham Hamdan, an instructor at AIU) it is a friend and a teacher, and so this is something brand-new that he sent us. The link to the English site is here. Sign up to be part of something that could be really big inshallah.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

"Weird Mosque on the Prairie"...

This post was so good and so detailed in its analysis of the "little (weird) mosque on the prarie", the Canadian sitcom, I had to add a whole entry for this. Read on here...

Muslim Cabbie Tales

Br. Umar Lee, a convert to Islam shares some stories. Despite his modest background (which he describes a little bit in the video), he writes as well as anyone else on his blog (see blog roll).

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Muslim Cabbies-- Unsung Heroes...

Simple cabbies, simple Muslims, but their actions speak for themselves. Interestingly, while every negative Muslim story, is replete with references to Islam or Muslims, the stories of these cabbies doesn't mention it (except a passing reference in one). I am not asking that all positive news pieces about Muslims scream religious affiliations... all I am asking for is CONSISTENCY!

In any case, alhamdulilah, the recent story of a Muslim cab-driver returning very valuable belongings to the owners, is not the first one, and wont be the last one. But, it is a testament to the honesty of these brothers, a trait taught by our great religion of Islam. The following are only a few that I could find within a minute of searching, all Muslims, and of course hardly any mention of that fact in the story:

If any of these people had kept their "findings", they would have turned their lives around quickly, but instead honest earnings, and the trust of their patrons, was more important to them than the quick "haram" buck! We ALL could taken lessons from these stories... how honest are WE at work? How many times have we been less than honest outside work? And so on... May Allah reward these brothers, and help us be honest and truthful in our dealings with all as well.

Monday, February 05, 2007

AlMaghrib Scholarships for Converts

In response to one of Umar Lee's points, here's the first and small step towards greater participation of converts in AlMaghrib programs.

Scholarships are being offered for the next two Aqeedah classes, one in NJ and one in MD, both within reasonable commute of the major communities of converts:

"Rays of Faith: Fundamentals of Faith 103" @ Rockville, MD
Shaykh Waleed Basyouni March 16-18 & 23-25 2007

"Light Upon Light: Aqeedah 102" @ New Brunswick, NJ
Shaykh Yasir Qadhi February 23-25 & March 2-4, 2007

Deadline for applying for Aqeedah 102 (Yasir Q.): February 15, 2007
Deadline for applying for Aqeedah 103 (Waleed B.): March 2, 2007
*The earlier you apply, the better the chances. If the student meets all 3 priorities, then he'll get in on a first-come-first-serve basis.

The scholarships are offered by the Clear Lake Islamic Center's (CLIC) Knowledge program, which has supported these before in Houston for Aqeedah 101.
  1. Scholarship will be for $100 each. Remaining amount has to be incurred by students or requested from Al-Maghrib independently (to the best of our information, Al-Maghrib does have programs to offset partial costs for needy students).

  2. Scholarship priorities are as follows (in order of importance):

    • Muslim converts (required)

    • Financial need (not required but preference will be given)

    • First-time students (not required but preference will be given)
  3. In order to apply, simply send an email to: amad@carsreloaded.com with your name, telephone, & where you fit (or not fit) in the scholarship priorities. We'll take it on from there.

  4. IMPORTANT POINT: Scholarships will actually be LOANS, qarda hasanah. The way to repay the loan is very easy. Every student that gets this loan, has to attend the class (of course) and ALSO take the exam... That's it! With that, his or her loan is forgiven! Simple as that. Those who do not take the exam without a good reason will owe us the scholarship amount. Our purpose is clear: the scholarship is for those who are genuinely interested in seeking knowledge!

A total of 15 scholarships will be offered between the two classes. Preference will be given to Aqeedah 102, with up to 10 scholarships assigned there. Please note that CLIC (sponsors of Texas Dawah) is not affiliated with Al-Maghrib in any official capacity.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Can’t Elect One? Then, Convert One! (STORY BEING FOLLOWED)

The mayor has changed his name to Hakim Mansour mashallah. See story here. Obviously, it hasn't been easy. I would URGE all my good readers to send a message of support to the Mayor. Here is the link. And finally, make Dua' for him, lots of supplication.

Unfortunately, instead of showing the world that the city was a beacon of tolerance, some of the city's residents have taken their bigotry online:
WMCC News (a few entries)

Stop by these if you will, and drop a comment. Be respectful, courteous, keeping your Islamic manners in tact... perhaps a discourse with these citizens will open their minds and hearts to their new Mayor. To be honest, I can only think of good that this will bring to the city, if the Mayor takes civil responsibility and civil servitude as part of his calling.


Alhamdulillah, the Mayor of the city of Macon, Jack Ellis, has reverted to Islam (hat-tip to CAIR for the email announcement). The news piece (here and here) states that the Mayor had raised as a Christian, had been studying the Quran for years, and then went to Senegal to make the official switch to the religion that his ancestors were on when they were brought to America from Africa.

When asked why, he replied, "Why does one become a Christian? ... You do it because it feels right. It's the right thing for you to do. ... To me it's no big deal. But people like to know what you believe in. And this is what I believe in."

I guess the question should really be, "Why not?" Perhaps Obama will also go back to his roots, once and if he becomes the President (stranger things have happened in history, and Allah is the Master of all things). Oh, by the way, we'd take Obama, even if he doesn't become President! [By the way, those were tongue-in-cheek comments... called HUMOR].

This little message of hope continues to demonstrate the resilience of the true religion of God, Islam. Despite all the anti-Islam rhetoric and propaganda in America, Allah guides whom He wills.

At Texas Dawah 2006, we had the State Senator from NC, Larry Shaw in the house. He is also a board member of CAIR. Inshallah, I will be recommending to TDC to bring Br. Jack next year! I think that will be cool. May Allah protect him and keep him on the truth. And may Allah make him a source of benefit for Muslims specifically and the society in general (Muslims and non-Muslims of course). This also reminds me of Br. William Rodriguez, the Hero of 9/11... the last person to be pulled out of the rubble that was caused by those who hijacked Islam (in addition to planes). Br. William announced at Texas Dawah that he had become a Muslim a few months ago! What could be more amazing than this, as a sign from Allah, who pulled out a believer-to-be from the rubbles of a tragedy.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Rise and Demise of "SOME" hard-liners...

This series at Umar Lee's blog is very interesting, to say the least. Well, really, only for people who were part of it. So, if you had anything to do with the "dawah" in America, you'll find it an important read. Some people read it, and found themselves depressed. Others read it, and saw great hope. I read it and felt both. But, the hope is stronger. Only when one settles the 'past accounts', can renewal be achieved. We all know that Fitnah will remain with us till the Day of Judgment. Hence, what is more important is how we deal with this continuous fitnah and whether it makes us stronger or weaker. The message of Sunnah has always been the simplest, the most practical, and the easiest to 'sell'. That is obvious, because it is the message of Islam itself- simple and pure; it doesn't require great twists and turns. Unfortunately, in what Umar discusses, some who acquired a little bit of it, sold more than they bargained for. In the process, they sold the baatil (falsehood).

On this blog, I would like to know what the people of the dawah outside the NE area felt and thought, the positive experiences?