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What Is Your Role In The Story Of Islam? : On Hajj, Eid, And Surat Ibrahim

21 June, 2024 - 15:10

Eid hasn’t felt like Eid of late. I’ve worn my best clothes, put on my best fragrance, recited my takbīrāt, sent a wave of messages, connected with family and friends – but my heart has been weighed by a continuous sense of overwhelming grief as this scripted play of celebration takes place against a backdrop of genocide. Here, we embrace one another in the joy of celebration; there, they embrace one another to seek any morsel of relief from the anguish of continuous loss at the hands of merciless slaughter. Here, we gather with loved ones over food and drink; there, they gather around trucks that should be transporting the little food they have only to find it to be a Trojan horse carrying their murderers. What is Eid to a bystander of mass murder, a powerless onlooker made to watch the endless massacres of his own brothers?

What is Eid but a reminder of my own uselessness? What is happiness but a burden to a heart heavy with the grief of helplessness?

It is in these moments that the eye wanders over to the embellished covers of a small book tucked away in a corner of the topmost shelf of a bookshelf. When the world stops making sense; when the grief begins to overwhelm; when the irreconcilable contradictions inherent in our very being are no longer avoidable; when we can no longer procrastinate from pondering over the incoherence of our existence; that is when our hearts, then our eyes, then our hands reach out to the Quran. O, light emanating from the uncreated speech of God! Come, illuminate the darkness that creeps ever closer to the edges of our souls.

As I contemplate this mix of joy and grief, my mind has been continuously pondering over the story of Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), but particularly his duʿā in the surah named after him. How strange that this is where I find myself – mixed with joy and grief – when that is exactly where Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) found himself so many millennia ago. This a story that brings hope to the hopeless, power to the powerless, and purpose to the purposeless. This is the story of Ibrahim, Ismāʿīl, and Hājar 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him).

The Story

There are three principal characters in this story: Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), Ismāʿīl 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), and Hājar 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). Each plays a distinct and important role in the final outcome, each is the main character in the act particular to them, and each confronts a kind of grief that is particular to them in order to fulfill their purpose.

The story itself is a perplexing one, something entirely unintelligible to a secular ethos. Ibrahim and his wife Sarah 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) were childless for decades until he was given the gift of a child in his old age with Hājar 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). Upon his miraculous fatherhood, Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was ordered by Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to leave his son and his mother in the middle of the desert; the land he himself describes in the Quran as “a valley devoid of vegetation.” While the tafsīr tradition is rife with spurious details about the story, the Quran itself offers very little except for a single passage in Surat Ibrahim 35 – 41. Almost all the details in the story are entirely unnecessary to the moral instruction inherent in it, and many of them cast the kind of aspersions on a prophet and his pious wife that are characteristic of other religions that have little respect for their divinely guided figures and are entirely alien to the reverence for prophets and their righteous followers that is necessitated by Islam. What is known is that Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) fathered Ismāʿīl 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) with Hājar 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and was commanded to leave them in the valley of Makkah.

According to traditions, as he leaves Hājar 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) in a completely empty desert valley, she calls out to and questions him. He is silent until she asks him, “Has Allah ordered you to do this?” When he responds in the affirmative, she replies to him saying, “Then Allah will not abandon us.”

Both Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and Hājar 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) are certain that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will not abandon them, but each is also animated by a grief that is particular to them.

the story of Ibrahim

Abandoned in the desert [PC: Josh Gordon (unsplash)]

Here is Hājar 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), a noblewoman given as a servant to Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and Sarah 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), who leaves her native Egypt only to be abandoned in a desert with her son at the command of a god she can neither see nor hear. Her absolute certainty in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), however, is not decoupled from desperation for her son. This fear is manifested in her famous running between the hills of al-Ṣafā and al-Marwah looking for nourishment until the well of Zam-Zam bursts forth from under the feet of her son.

And here is Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), who has suffered countless times following the command of his close Friend to proclaim the message of His divine Oneness: thrown to the fire by his own family, exiled by his people, wandering the earth childless and without a home – until he at long last miraculously sires a son at his old age only to be told to abandon that son and his mother in a desert valley. As he leaves his family in such a terrible state, he knows that his Divine Friend is his only vessel for his grief; that the only refuge from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is to Him.

The Duʿā

While the duʿā is long and with significant consequence, I want to focus on two ayahs specifically. In ayah thirty-seven, Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) says the following:

“Our Lord! I have settled some of my offspring in a barren valley, near Your Sacred House, our Lord, so that they may establish prayer. So make the hearts of ˹believing˺ people incline towards them and provide them with fruits, so perhaps they will be thankful.”

There is rhyme and reason behind the commands of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) – they are not pointless instructions without wisdom. Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) knows that the wisdom behind His command is to build the Kaʿbah and establish Makkah as a center of worship – that the physical water which flows from beneath the feet of Ismāʿīl 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) will turn to spiritual waters and flood the world in iman. Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) knows that he stands at the head of a story of Islam, and it is that understanding that gives him comfort when he is asked to abandon his family in a lifeless desert. His role is to relinquish; Hājar’s 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) role is to nourish; his son’s role is to establish.

But understanding the wisdom behind a command does not mean a heart is not grieved. He, alayhi al-salām, still has a human heart that beats inside his human chest. And so, before continuing with his duʿā, he turns his grief to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He):

“Our Lord! You certainly know what we conceal (from grief) and what we reveal. And nothing on earth or in heaven is hidden from Allah.” [Surah Ibrahim: 14;38]

Imam al-Ṭabarī states that the first statement is that of Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), and that the second statement is Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) response to His Friend. Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), overcome by the grief of separation from the son he wished so long for only to sacrifice him for a greater purpose, calls out in grief to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). And his Lord, his Master, his Divine Friend answers him, telling him that no grief is hidden from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

In this way, Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) is one in a long tradition of prophets turning their grief to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). His grandson, Yaʿqūb 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) calls out to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)similarly when he says, “I complain of my anguish and sorrow only to Allah, and I know from Allah what you do not know.” [Surah Yusuf: 12;86]. And Allah  subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) responds to him by returning his Yusuf 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) to him. Yūnus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) calls out to his Lord and Master, proclaiming, “There is no god ˹worthy of worship˺ except You. Glory be to You! I have certainly done wrong.” [Surah Al-Anbiya: 21;87]. And Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) responds to his immense grief: “So We answered his prayer and rescued him from anguish. And so do We save the ˹true˺ believers.” [Surah Yusuf: 12;88]

And when the final Messenger of Allah, the Rasūl ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) sits beneath a tree outside Ṭāʿif and calls out to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He): “O Allah! I complain to you of my weakness, the deficiency of my resources, and my humiliation before people!” And Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) responded to him by calling him past the seven heavens into his direct presence.

So, too, did Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) respond to Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). His response was the establishment of Makkah al-Mukarramah and the birth of the final prophet from the progeny of his sacrificed son. His response was the story of Islam, which includes you and me.

The Sacrifice of Palestinians Will Not Go Unheeded

One of the most powerful motifs in this story is that of mere presence as sacrifice for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Both Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and Ismāʿīl 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) sacrifice life as father and son in order to establish Makkah as the epicenter of spirituality on earth. The mere presence of the son is sacrifice. Ismāʿīl 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) sacrifices the comforts of the Levant, a life lived with his father, and the safety of civilization in exchange for establishing and maintaining a sacred sanctuary. His sacrifice establishes his place in the story of Islam.

So, too, is the mere unrelenting presence of the Palestinian people a sacrifice to maintain the sanctity of the sanctuary of al-Aqṣā. Under occupation by a regime with designs on the land, on the people, on the aram itself, the valiant sentries born in the land of prophets and saints give their very breath and blood to protect sanctified land, the first qiblah, the site of the isrāʾ and miʿrāj. And for the crime of that mere presence, they are slaughtered mercilessly and treated with utter indignity.

But like Ibrahim, Yaʿqūb, and Yūnus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) before them – like the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) – they turn their grief, their anguish, their suffering to the One Who sees all, knows all, and has power over all. They know that they are in obedience to His divine Command to protect the sanctuary; and so, like Ismāʿīl 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) before them, they know that the water that wells up below their feet will turn into a flood of Divine Truth that engulfs the world. They know, as Hājar 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) knew before them, that if Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has commanded them, then He will not abandon them. The Lord of the aram of al-Aqṣā will not abandon its people, and their sacrifice will become part of the story of Islam.

What Is Our Place in the Story of Islam?

While we take some solace in the knowledge that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will not allow the sacrifice of the people of al-Aqṣā to go in vain, their story must force us to question ourselves. We have blamed the murderous regime that perpetrates their genocide; we have blamed the allies of that regime for facilitating the brutality of slaughter and occupation; we have blamed the collaborators amongst Muslim leaders around the world for failing to act in defense of our brothers. But how often have we blamed ourselves?

the story of Islam

Where is our place in the story of Islam? [Etienne Girardet (unsplash)]

The truth is that we have all collectively failed the people of Palestine, just like we have failed the people of Sudan, Syria, Kashmir, the Uyghurs, the Rohingya – and the list goes on. We did not fail them in 2023, or even 2003. We have failed them for generations, and that failure is only now being manifested in the grossest way possible. We failed them because we have traded cheap comforts for civilizational purposes. We failed them because we abandoned the project of rebuilding Islamic civilization. We failed them because we stopped believing in the story of Islam.

We have forgotten that we are born a people with a divine mission on this earth. Other people can think that they are born on this earth to experience its pleasures and joys and to expire as painlessly as possible, but we are born the heirs of Ibrahim and Ismāʿīl 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) as the best community brought about for humanity:

“You are the best community ever raised for humanity—you encourage good, forbid evil, and believe in Allah. If only the People of the Scripture had believed, it would have been better for them. Among them are believers, but most of them are defiantly disobedient.” [Surah ‘Ali-Imran: 3;110]

Just like Ismāʿīl 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) before us, we are born with a God-given purpose to establish the sanctuary of Islam in a profane world, to uphold the banner of lā Ilāha illā Allah in a world where all others uphold the banner of their own desires as their gods. This is not done by simply praying and fasting on our own. It is a civilizational project, one which requires the collective effort of an entire ummah to be pointed spear-like at its objective.

Instead, we have traded our civilizational purpose for the capitalist dream: a car, a house, a small family, and vacations in the summer. We build nothing. We create nothing. We aspire to nothing. We are prepared to sacrifice nothing. And, yet, we are surprised when we achieve nothing and are treated like we are nothing.

What is our role in the story of Islam? This story requires characters who will build its economic, artistic, educational, spiritual, intellectual, and political foundations. What part of its foundation are we going to be a part of building? Are we ready to sacrifice what is necessary to revive an entire civilization? Or are we going to simply be those who complain incessantly but do little and sacrifice less? Because, in the end, this story belongs to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). And if we refuse to play our part in it, He will simply replace us with those who don’t turn away so easily:

“Here you are – those invited to spend in the cause of Allah – but among you are those who withhold [out of greed]. And whoever withholds only withholds [benefit] from himself; and Allah is the Free of need, while you are the needy. And if you turn away, He will replace you with another people; then they will not be the likes of you.” [Surah Muhammad: 47;38]

 

Related:

Optimism in Times of Adversity: How The Prophet Did It

Think Like Ibrahim | The Essence of Surah Baqarah | Shaykh Akram Nadwi

 

The post What Is Your Role In The Story Of Islam? : On Hajj, Eid, And Surat Ibrahim appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

The Retraumitization Of A people: Nearly 20 years After Abu Ghraib Made Headlines, Sde Teiman Is Exposed

20 June, 2024 - 17:10

My friends and I joke about our “inner 9/11 voice”. Twenty-three years later it’s still hardwired into our subconscious, fattened with the fear of arbitrary arrests under the Patriot Act – the irony of the acronym was not lost on us, an act named after the very thing we were accused of lacking. It’s a survival mechanism: don’t say that on the phone! Don’t search that up! Make sure you get to the airport 3 hours early; you’re going to be randomly selected.  

It’s not out of nothing the voice lingers. The events and discriminations we faced as Western Muslims are archived in our brains, a chronological snapshot of flashbulb memories. The look on my teacher’s face, the urgency as we were shuttled home. The grim line of my mother’s mouth and the terror in her eyes. George W. Bush’s declaration of Operation ‘Iraqi Freedom’ and the impotent rage in the clenched fists and veins bulging in my father’s forearms.

Are We Not Human Enough?

One memory in particular still haunts me. In 2004, I was 15 years old in grade 10, and learning to live in a post-9/11 Western country as a young Muslim woman in hijab. I had three years of discrimination and Islamophobia under my belt and a litany of horror stories across North America to keep me wary and constantly alert. 

I remember walking into a convenience store one morning and picking up a newspaper. I can still feel the sheer horror and shock that washed over me at the sight of naked men piled atop each other in a sadistic pile of limbs and hoods. It took a couple of minutes for my brain to untangle the image and comprehend I was looking at the contorted bodies of men. Men cowering in front of dogs, men sodomized. I remember looking back and forth between their brown skin and black hair and the starkly contrasting white faces stretched in broad, toothy smiles. I remember one clear thought as I looked into the pixelated eyes of the soldiers: are we not human enough?

Those men could have been my father, uncles, or brothers. Despite being a fairly light-skinned Syrian, their dark skin was strong arms and safety, invoking the troth of blood and kinship. My legs felt numb, my mind went blank, and my ears rang with shock. I went to school that day in a daze. Why weren’t people screaming about this depraved rape and abuse? How were the faces around me smiling and not twisted in fright and repulsion at the sadistic smiles and cocky thumbs-ups? 

That flashbulb memory comes to me often, Abu Ghraib 2004. I believe we lost any remnants of hope and trust when news of Abu Ghraib broke. The tattered shreds of ‘we belong’s and ‘it will get better’s we were clinging to shed silently, leaving us more vulnerable than ever. It was confirmation of the worst kind: the dehumanization of our brown skin and our faith didn’t just make us a perceived threat or a demeaning and time-consuming ‘randomly selected’ at the airport. 

It made us subhuman, not worthy of dignity or decency. It was the humiliation of our men and our honor, screamed silently into a deaf world. Are we not human enough?

Sde Teiman

20 years later, we watched in horror as men and boys were stripped to their underwear and crammed into the open back of a military truck. Brown skin and blindfolds. In the back of our minds, brains programmed by Western powers and their unholy War of Terror, that voice was screaming shrilly: executions or a horrific fate worse than death. 

Isn’t it strange how neural pathways of primal fear, pathways we were taught and worked so hard to break, were reignited like wildfire by that one image? Are we not human enough?

Twenty years later we’re reading the sadistic, sodomized details of Sde Teiman and it is Abu Ghraib all over again. We’re retraumatized, forcibly reminded that despite the passage of time and so-called advances in diversity and equality, our skin and creed continue to make us subhuman. 

Twenty years ago, the photo of a man in a black hood and cape, strung up like a Christmas tree was plastered on front pages setting the tone for what was to come. The headlines were 2004’s idea of a trigger warning: torture, humiliation, sodomy all laid out clear as day. 

Today’s coverage broke softly, with all the force of a warm summer breeze. 

Today Patrick Kingsley of the New York Times writes about Sde Teiman following a rare visit. He buries the lead and prioritizes reporting on his observations, a detailed and tedious description of a farce he must have known was staged for his visit. He then meanders through the story, dropping a progressively more sinister fact every 500 words or so. Like Hansel and Gretel and their trail of breadcrumbs, he surreptitiously treads a fragile path, as though fearing it will crack and break beneath him if he says too much too fast.

It took Kingsley 3317 words before the sodomy of an innocent man using what is described as an electrified metal rod was mentioned. More than three-quarters of the way into his article (87% to be exact; I calculated it) when his readers had probably dwindled to the dedicated few who felt compelled to bear witness. 

Sde Teiman

This undated photo taken in the winter 2023 and provided by Breaking the Silence, a whistleblower group of former Israeli soldiers, shows blindfolded Palestinians captured in the Gaza Strip in a detention facility on the Sde Teiman military base in southern Israel. (Breaking The Silence via AP)

Meanwhile, Julie Frankel for the Associated Press disingenuously refers to Sde Teiman as a “shadowy hospital.” She begins her article by referencing “patients…surgeries…doctors” as though the sole purpose of this place is to treat the wounded, framing this as some act of mercy and kindness on the part of the Israelis. She even goes as far as stating this was the primary purpose of this former military barracks, a complete fabrication. Sde Teiman has field hospitals, and doctors tasked with putting together bodies broken by torture. Its primary purpose, however, is the illegal detention or, more accurately, kidnapping of Palestinian men and youth and their subsequent torture and criminal interrogation. She underhandedly undermines the testimonies of tortured innocent civilians and horrific eyewitness testimonies by writing them off as merely “critics allege.” 

Frankel barely refers to these facts, which are based on whistleblowers, CNN reports, firsthand testimonies, eyewitness statements, and the anonymous confessions of Israeli soldiers and doctors. Instead, she disproportionately favors the Israeli narrative and voice. In fact, she leaves off reporting the Israeli military’s murder of innocent Palestinians until the very end of the article. Her only inclusion of a Palestinian voice comes right after that, burying the extent of torture and the Palestinian perspective underneath the disproportionate Israeli references, justifications, and her whitewashing of these crimes.

Although the structure of Kingsley’s article and the surface-level reporting of Frankel’s irked me the most, I was also disappointed by the decontextualization evident in their articles. Reading this as an account of a ‘detention center’ and the men simply ‘detainees,’ only added insult to injury. The unequivocal truth is holding someone innocent, without charge, legal representation or their family’s knowledge of their whereabouts renders them kidnapped or, at best, hostages. One cannot even use the term “hostage” as Israel wants nothing in return for their release, they merely want to torture, interrogate, and obtain confessions under duress. Adding torture and sexual abuse makes this a torture center reminiscent of Abu Ghraib. Both facts are supported by extensive international humanitarian laws that criminalize torture, secretive arbitrary imprisonment, holding people incommunicado, and inhumane prison conditions. 

Yet none of these caveats and dictates of International Humanitarian law are mentioned in these articles. Kingsley merely alludes to it with a simple “some legal experts say is a contravention of international law” as though this were up for debate and not readily available on the United Nations website and in their reports. 

Neither do they mention how pervasive the torture and illegal imprisonment against innocent Palestinians is across Israel. Both reporters fail to address how systemic these conditions and testimonies are; Israel has a long and sordid past when it comes to the grotesque and inhumane treatment of Palestinians they kidnapped and held. They also go to great lengths to ensure families and lawyers of the kidnapped do not know where they are and have no means of contact with them. Sda Teiman is merely a continuation of this horrific system intent on crippling, torturing and humiliating innocent Palestinians. 

Half-Truth Coverage

Now, I am well aware of leaked internal memos ‘guiding’ journalists on the correct terminology for referring to Palestine, where to start history, and Palestinians displacement and current genocide. However, while that may explain some literary choices, it does not absolve reporters of this half-truth coverage. As journalists and ones tasked with the monumental responsibility of exposing war crimes in the foul and degenerate torture center of Sde Teiman, there is an ethical and moral obligation to apply the best practices of investigative journalism. 

For instance, as is expected in investigative journalism, reporting should counter the statements and claims of Israeli officials, rather than quoting them verbatim. For instance, when the Israeli military denies systematic abuse and claims it may have been invented under pressure from Hamas, it would be relevant to include some of the relevant statistics, such as how many children and innocent women are illegally imprisoned, the extent of sexual abuse and humiliation, the methods of torture, and the Israeli military court’s failure to prosecute any of the soldiers involved. 

Reporting should also humanize these men. Who are they? What family was waiting for them, believing them dead? What stories of horror, fear, and humiliation do they carry, scars on their bodies and minds? Kingsley references the men’s feelings twice, once regarding how long the imprisonment felt and once how a hot metal rod inserted in his rectum felt, and Frankel, not at all. I believe these men, being the complex human beings they are, felt much more than that. 

I stress these points intentionally. Sde Teiman has shown us the world has not learned from the heinous crimes of Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib. In 2003, George W. Bush looked dead at the camera and said: “the people you liberate will witness the honorable and decent spirit of the American military.” Today Israel is no different, claiming to have the most moral army in the world. 

If Bush taught us anything, it’s that even though talk is cheap, it exacts a heavy price from those it demonizes. 

In 2004, when I was 15, I choked on the bile in my throat as proud, strong men were humiliated, tortured, and broken in both body and spirit. 

It’s 2024, and Sde Teiman shows we haven’t learned to care that underneath brown skin, bones break and flesh splits just the same as white skin. Nor have we learned that minds that worship Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) recoil in horror and humiliation at sexual abuse just the same as minds that worship any other God. 

Perhaps the humanization of these men will grant people the ability to see that. 

Perhaps this will help end this cruelty and prevent the next shameful Abu Ghraib or Sde Teiman. 

Perhaps then, my 11-year-old Palestinian son won’t be putting pen to paper in twenty years, choking back the bile in his throat at the dehumanization and demonization of his skin.  

 

Related:

Podcast: Lost & Found At Guantanamo Bay With Mansoor Adayfi

Uyghurs In East Turkestan Face Forced Starvation

 

 

The post The Retraumitization Of A people: Nearly 20 years After Abu Ghraib Made Headlines, Sde Teiman Is Exposed appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

The Things He Would Say, Part 1

19 June, 2024 - 00:36

This is part 1 of a two-part short story.

Pakistan Versus Germany

Pakistan versus Jordan football match

The kids were finally asleep, and Murid settled onto the lumpy cushions of their old sofa to watch the Pakistan versus Germany match. These moments of peace, these small pleasures, helped him stay sane.

Next week would be Junaid’s fourteenth birthday. Murid always found himself depressed on his son’s birthday, as it prompted comparisons to the boy’s peers, and reminders of all the things the child would never do, at any age.

The teams were running out onto the field. Pakistan was fielding a strong team this year, but Murid was not hopeful.

Football. That was something his son Junaid would never do. Oh, sure, he could kick a ball randomly, but an organized match? He would never experience the joy of dribbling the ball past an opponent and driving it into the goal.

Junaid was severely autistic. The boy had never spoken and would never speak. He did like to sing – a sort of formless moaning and humming without melody or beat – but language was not within his capability. Drawing interested in him as well, but they were scribbles. He could not dress himself, though he could take his socks off and liked to do so often, as he didn’t seem to enjoy the sensation of material on his feet. It was a bit maddening at times, especially when Murid would be trying to get the boy dressed to go to his special school, and every time he turned around Junaid would pull his socks off.

Junaid could not make a sandwich or get himself a glass of milk from the fridge, though he could hold a spoon or fork and feed himself at mealtimes. He could not recite the Quran or repeat a dhikr. He could not properly do a salat, though at times he liked to mimic his father’s movements of ruku’ or sujood in his own playful way, just as a toddler might do.

The Call to Hajj

Murid desperately wanted to go to Hajj. He was nearing forty years old and had never been able to afford the trip. Now, with the costs associated with Junaid’s healthcare, it seemed impossible. But lately Junaid had been feeling like he was in a deep hole, looking up at a shrinking circle of light.

The cost of living was rising like a hot air balloon. Murid was a land surveyor for the California transportation agency. It was a decent job, but San Diego was an expensive city, and Murid’s salary was not keeping up with spiraling inflation. Every month he found himself poring over the bills, asking himself what costs he could cut. The worry was a pressure in his head that kept growing.

At times, he was overcome by an intense desire to have someone hug him and say, “It’s alright, you’re on a good path, you’ll be okay, and so will your kids.” The feeling was so strong that Murid would pause, even walking down the hallway at work, and once in the middle of a casual after work football match, and wait for the sensation to pass.

He wasn’t a fool; he knew that going to Hajj would not magically solve his problems. But to be at Hajj, on the plain of Arafah, beneath the broiling sun, in ihram, and to plead his case to Allah in that place – it felt momentous. It would change him, though he could not say how.

Always a Child

Murid was not ashamed of his son. He loved him with all his heart. Junaid was happy, for the most part. He liked to hug his father and sit in his lap. He enjoyed watching cartoons, stacking random things on the floor – tomato sauce cans, or toilet paper rolls – and loved it when his younger sister Mina read to him, even if he could not understand the words.

But yes, at times Murid was sad for him. At this age the boy should be preparing to enter adulthood. Any other boy would now be ready to step out of the back row at the masjid, and up to the front row with the men. But Junaid, no matter how his body grew, would always be a child. He would never drive a car, go to university, or marry and have children of his own.

Tomorrow was Jumu’ah, and after work Murid would take the kids to their grandparent’s home for a party. His father would hound him with the usual useless and unkind comments – “You need to stop coddling the boy so he can grow up properly. Take him out of that special school and put him in a normal school. He needs tough love.”

On the TV, Pakistan were pressing Germany, pushing toward the goal, passing the ball flawlessly. Murid exclaimed, “Yes!” and reached for the bag of potato chips on the coffee table.

It’s Too Much

His wife – or ex-wife, since he had filed a divorce in absentia – had enjoyed football as well. He often wondered where she was. In fact “wondered” was an understatement. He imagined feverishly, raged, castigated wordlessly, made dua’, and played and replayed scenarios in his mind.

She had left when Mina was three years old. Mina had not yet spoken a word at that time, and the doctors thought that she too might be autistic. One day Murid had awakened to find his wife vanished, with only a note: “It’s too much, I can’t handle it. I need to find myself. I am sorry.”

She’d never returned, and no one knew where she had gone, not even her parents, or so they claimed.

Murid wondered, had the woman changed her name and become a waitress in some greasy spoon in the middle of nowhere? Had she fallen into degeneracy, giving up Islam, becoming addicted to meth and earning her living as a stripper in a roughneck roadhouse just past the county line? Had she married a rich man, and was now basking in the sun on the deck of a villa on the Adriatic Sea? Or had she gone randomly traveling and been murdered by some flyover state serial killer with the bones of fifty women buried in a cow field?

Potato Chips

“Baba, you know you’re not supposed to eat chips.”

Startled, Murid glanced up at Mina standing on the staircase. A skinny ten year old, she wore pajamas with kittens on them, and her curly hair was flat on one side.

“The salt,” Mina continued, “isn’t good for your blood pressure. The doctor told you so.”

Murid shrugged guiltily. “I read about a study that casts doubt on the link between potato chips and hypertension.”

Mina rolled her eyes. “Whatever. Who funded the study, the national association of potato farmers? Are you trying to say that a bag of chips is the same as a bowl of steamed broccoli, or a nice salad?”

“No, but it sure tastes better.”

“Baba… We need you to be healthy. You know that.”

Murid felt a flash of irritation accompanied by a wave of guilt that nearly knocked him off the sofa. He understood exactly what Mina was saying: Junaid needs you to be healthy. Mina was reminding him that there was no one else in this world who could care for Junaid. That she, Mina, would do it herself but she was too young. That if anything happened to Murid it would devastate the lives of the two people in the world he loved most. He felt ashamed that Mina should have to worry about such things, but what could he do?

Anyone In Mind?

“Fiiine,” he said, clipping the chips bag closed and tossing it onto the coffee table. “No more chips. But we don’t have anything else to eat. I’ll go shopping tomorrow.”

“My friend, you need a wife.”

Murid knew he should be stern with his daughter for addressing him so informally, but instead he turned his face away so she would not see his smile.

“That’s a bit misogynist, isn’t it? Implying that shopping is a woman’s job. Anyway, do you have anyone in mind?”

“Not Juliana.”

Ah, Murid thought. That’s another thing worrying her. “I know, honey bear. She’s just Junaid’s part-time caretaker. And she’s not Muslim. I don’t think about her that way.”

“Okay… Well if you’re waiting for Mom to come back, better not hold your breath.”

Murid frowned. “That’s a low blow. I don’t appreciate that.”

“Sorry. But you can’t stay stuck in the past.”

Murid sighed. Mina was a little too perceptive sometimes. When you combined that with a lack of a filter – the kid just said whatever she thought – it was like living with an Austrian drill instructor / therapist.

“Why are you awake anyway?”

“The TV woke me up.”

Murid promised to turn the volume down, and Mina went back to bed.

The Irony

This was the irony, that Mina had turned out to be a brilliant child. When she finally began to speak it was in full sentences. She was reading her father’s newspaper while other children her age still struggled with Dr. Seuss. She memorized the Quran rapidly and easily, carried out hobby-kit science projects for fun, and taught herself to play the violin. If only her mother had been patient enough.

On the other hand, any mother who would abandon her children was not someone who should be in their lives anyway.

Certainly being the father of such a gifted child was a source of great joy, and a relief as well. It went a long way toward tempering Murid’s sadness over Junaid. That was not to say that he did not love and cherish Junaid. He loved both children equally, no matter what. Nevertheless, Mina made the burden easier to bear. At the very least, Murid knew that one day, when he was gone, Junaid would have someone to watch over him. That was a tremendous comfort.

Watching TV at nightHe fell asleep during the match. He woke in the middle of the night to the sound of breaking glass outside, and someone screaming. That was not unusual in this neighborhood. He had often wished he could move the family to a safer, cleaner area, but this clapboard rat’s nest was all he could afford.

The match was over. An infomercial for a cat-safe fan droned on the TV. Wiping the drool from his chin, he looked up the results of the game on his phone. Pakistan had won 2 to 1. Happy that his team won, but annoyed that he missed it, he stumbled up the stairs and went to bed.

Just before falling asleep he made a dua:

O Allah, allow me to go to Hajj. Open a way for me to visit Your sacred house, Ya Rahman, Ya Raheem. Guide me, show me the way forward. Protect my children, no matter what. O Allah protect my daughter and my son. Whatever you wish to do to me, O Allah, do it; but keep Mina and Junaid safe.

Part 2 will be published next week inshaAllah

Reader comments and constructive criticism are important to me, so please comment!

See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories on this website.

Wael Abdelgawad’s novels – including Pieces of a Dream, The Repeaters and Zaid Karim Private Investigator – are available in ebook and print form on his author page at Amazon.com.

Related:

No, My Son | A Short Story

A Hassan’s Tale Story: No Strings On Me

 

The post The Things He Would Say, Part 1 appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

A Less Than Perfect Hajj: Hajj Reflections

15 June, 2024 - 21:56

This year marks 10 years since I went to Hajj, Alhamdulillah. In the past decade, I have thought about writing about my experience many times but something always stopped me from doing so. This year, I am sharing my experience in the hopes that it is beneficial for people who may be in a similar situation.

The year was 2014 and I had no idea what my life held for me. I was about to turn 27, single, raising Spark (my pet turtle) and working as an Office Administrator at a small company where I was fairly well liked. In many ways, I had everything one needs to be content. However, I wasn’t content; in fact, I was quietly depressed. In my culture I was reaching the age of “expiry” for marriage and that weighed on me heavily. My self worth was non-existent and every small mistake at work made me hysterical. 

It was during this time that my brother informed our family that he will be going to Hajj with his wife, in sha Allah. I was extremely happy for them. I was going to give him my list of duas so he would remember them on the day of Arafah. I would be helping my parents watch their daughter whom they were going to leave behind. I was excited to bond with my niece over our love for Spark. 

A couple of days later, as I was talking to my sister about nothing and everything, as sisters often do,  the following conversation ensued: 

Sister: Hey, so I’m thinking that maybe I will go for Hajj too. Do you want to come? 

Me: What? How? With who? 

Sister: With Bhaiya and Bhabhi. He is our Mehram. I don’t have a full time job and you can take time off. 

Me: Oh. Hmmm, I didn’t think of it. But yeah, I guess we can. We gotta ask Ammi and Abbu.

Sister: They won’t say no. We just have to make sure Bhaiya is okay with it. 

Me: Yeah. You have money? 

Sister: Yeah, I have some saved up. You? 

Me: Yeah, I think so. I should be able to manage, inshaAllah. 

I don’t remember if we talked to our parents the same night or if it was the next morning, but the result was as expected. They were overjoyed that we wanted to go and said they would talk to our brother on our behalf. My brother and sister-in-law, may Allah bless them both, said yes without hesitation. 

Just like that, I was now preparing to go to Hajj! The list of duas that I’d put together for my brother would now travel with me. I would get to ask Allah, at Arafah, for those things myself. 

Allah had chosen me, as a single woman, to go to Hajj. Not only that, He enabled me to cover my own expenses without relying on anyone else. Truly, Allah is Al-Lateef. When I thought I was going to end up in the pits of depression, He pulled me out by giving me this opportunity. 

The next few months were filled with preparation. I watched lectures on YouTube, talked to family and friends who had been to Hajj, attended workshops, and took courses. I was nervous, excited, scared, humbled and everything in between. 

The Pre-Hajj Test of Faith

I was also sad, because I had to give up my pet turtle. My parents wouldn’t be able to take care of him and my niece. Plus, he was getting too big for the tank I had. With all my resources going towards Hajj, I didn’t have much left to upgrade his space. I decided to find another home for it. I knew that Allah would provide for him like He did for all of us. 

Amidst all the excitement, the company I worked for got bought out. My position was removed and even though I was assigned another role, it was not what I wanted, so I left in June. In July came the news of attacks on Gaza, in Palestine. My heart was broken. I was so disturbed that I could not sleep most nights. I cried and made dua for our brothers and sisters in Palestine. I wanted to do more so I started looking for rallies to attend and petitions to sign. 

The only problem was, my Hajj visa hadn’t been approved yet. Despite everything that Allah had made easy, my faith wavered when I was about to sign petitions. “What if someone sees my support for Palestine and rejects my visa?” I wondered. “Then I won’t be able to go for Hajj!” Even though the thought only lasted for a second, I had forgotten for that second how Merciful and Powerful Allah is. If He was making everything this easy for me, why would I ever think that He would now make it difficult when I was doing the right thing? 

Alhamdulillah though, it was only momentary. I did sign petitions, attend rallies and advocate for Palestine. My visa still came through and we were set to travel in September. I wish I had documented my journey as I was going through it, or at least after I returned when it was fresh. Alas, I did not. However, there are some things I remember very clearly which I would like to share so others may benefit, inshaAllah.  

When Hajj Doesn’t Feel the Way You Thought It Would

I was always told that when you first lay eyes on the Ka’ba, your heart is filled with awe and wonder and love and all things good. I wanted to feel those things so badly, but I didn’t. I was extremely grateful to be there, but I didn’t feel what everyone else said I would feel. I thought something was wrong with me and that I didn’t deserve to be there. 

And no, things did not get better after that. Most people in my group were married, with children, save one girl who was also there with her brother. In the holiest of places, I started having meltdowns because I wanted more than anything to have a spouse who would care for me and children I could care for. I avoided  answering people’s questions by reading the Quran. Of course this made me feel even worse – I wasn’t reciting Qur’an for the Sake of Allah, but to avoid talking to people. 

Then there was the issue of Palestine still weighing on me. Here I was, a not-so-great servant of Allah, in His house, during the most blessed days of the year, not feeling the right things while people with much stronger faith were being murdered. What did I do to deserve such mercy from Allah? I was so afraid that Allah was giving me so much in this in the dunya, but that my punishment in the Aakhira would be more severe. 

Uplifted

Despite all these negative feelings and thoughts, Allah, in His infinite mercy, sent wonderful people, including my brother, to gently pull me out of the cycle of negativity.  He reminded me that I was surrounded by people who loved me and cared for me. He explained that a small circle of righteous friends was better than having a large social circle which may pull me away from Allah. His words were comforting. While my sorrow didn’t disappear completely, my brother’s wisdom did shift my perspective and allowed me to focus on my blessings and rephrase my duas. 

On the day of Arafah, I wept and asked Allah for help and guidance and so much more. I prayed for all my friends and family. I asked Allah to help the oppressed, especially the people of Palestine. I asked for success in this dunya and I asked for Jannah in the Aakhirah. Before the day ended, I thanked Him. I thanked Allah for this once in a lifetime opportunity and for making it so smooth and easy. I asked Him for forgiveness for my shortcomings and my wavering faith. Finally, I asked Allah to accept my Hajj and allow me to become a better version of myself. 

After coming back, it was back to the grind of looking for a job and a spouse. Alhamdulillah, I landed a decent job in the summer of 2015 and in October of 2016 I was married. A couple of years ago, I actually came across my dua list from Hajj and subhanAllah, I was amazed at how many of those duas had been accepted. Perhaps those du’as weren’t answered in the way I had envisioned but I know that whatever Allah does, is best for us. 

In the end, even though my Hajj experience wasn’t as uplifting and starry-eyed as so many others’ experiences seem to be, I am so humbled, grateful and forever in awe that Allah chose me for it when He did. 

Before leaving for Hajj, my sister had told me that in the Visionaire program with Muhammad Al Shareef, may Allah have mercy on him, she learned that our duas need to be specific. The biggest lesson I learned from my Hajj journey was how powerful dua is. Even though I didn’t make the intention of going for Hajj that year, I had always asked Allah to make it happen when it was right for me. Standing at Arafah, I realized that I was there because this was the right time for me. I needed to be there to understand that Allah would never abandon me. I reflected on everything I had been through previously and saw that I was never alone in any of my struggles. It was Allah who had pulled me out then, and I knew without a doubt that Allah was going to guide me in any future struggles He has written for me. 

I will end by reminding you, dear reader, that Allah is as you think of Him. Expect good from Him, and you will not be disappointed. He heard the du’as of my heart – du’as I hadn’t even verbalized –  and granted them in the best possible way. He is the All-Hearing so call on Him any time, especially during the blessed months and times.

I ask Allah to bless my parents, my sister who asked me to join her for Hajj and my brother and sister-in-law who so graciously took the responsibility of taking me. May Allah accept the Hajj of all Hujjaj and may He grant everyone the opportunity to fulfill this obligation in good health and with ease. May He grant our Ummah success by allowing us to uphold truth and justice. May He liberate all those who are oppressed. May He unite us all in Jannah with our beloved Prophet (saw). Ameen! 

Related:

Reflections On Hajj I Sh. Furhan Zubairi

Seeking Out The Spiritual Underpinnings Of Our Ritual Acts of Worship

The post A Less Than Perfect Hajj: Hajj Reflections appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

A Wooden Defense Of Genocide: A Response To Graeme Wood

13 June, 2024 - 16:31

Written by Safeer Raza and Mohammad Saad

 

The West, as Hamid Dabashi says, stands morally bankrupt. Its politics, philosophy, academia, and media are the proponents of the occupation and oppression that has seen hundreds of thousands of innocents killed just to safeguard the Western interests in a region that has already experienced great suffering because of Western colonization. But the suffering for ‘Others’, which has a special status for the sadist West, has meant little in its eyes. All these moral philosophers, with baggage of ‘morality’ and ‘ethics’, stick their heads in the ground when others suffer. The whole history of Western colonization and ‘progress’ undergirds such violence, where development has been achieved through the exploitation, colonization, and oppression of the other.

A few weeks ago, the Atlantic published a new piece authored by Graeme Wood on the Gaza death toll. Considering the past track record of the writer, its contents were not surprising at all. Throughout the article, the writer has tried to use statistical data on civilian casualties in the ongoing genocide of the Palestinians, to justify Israeli aggression since the October 7th. What is condemnable is that the Israeli lives killed in a resistance act by Hamas greatly concerns the author, yet in the same article, the author justifies the killing of thousands of innocent children. Though this is not an anomalous case in Western media, Woods is just one of the countless minds that one can easily spot in the media, political and power circles, and even on the street.

Graeme WoodThe author has a history of cultivating Islamophobic sensibilities, in his writings. He has the habit of distorting the image of the Muslims and their sufferings which are directly and indirectly caused by the West. Back in February 2015, he authored a similar article titled “What ISIS Really Wants“, which makes a crude generalization about the Daesh Ideology vis-à-vis Islamic Scripture. The author disregards the almost 2 billion Muslims, their differences, and their political cultures, while claiming that Islam is the fundamental ground to produce such militant groups.

In this article, the labeling of Gaza’s Health Ministry as the ‘Hamas-run Health Ministry’ supports a genocidal strategy that seeks to destroy every hospital in Gaza. This labelling predetermines the collateral damage, without being held accountable in the liberal conceptualization of accountability. This a priori justification goes for bombing any other structure in Gaza, not just hospitals. Along with other infrastructure, the Zionist state has bombed several United Nations buildings, including the UNRWA school, with the justification that these are being used by the Hamas fighters.

For the UN, it is nonviable to calculate or confirm the number of people killed and wounded;  because Israel’s targeted strikes make any independent and neutral reporting and aid processes impossible to operate. It has killed hundreds of journalists, aid workers, and volunteers with targeted goals. When the UN has shared its count of the casualties, it has not counted those under the rubble, still to be identified, and other such people who are dead but not in the papers. These unaccounted dead could be in the tens of thousands until now. The numbers provided by the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza are believed to be less than the actual number of people killed in this genocide.

The author has studied this whole genocide clad in the dress of legality of the international conventions on war, reporting, and resistance. At the heart of this conceptualization is the legal status of Israel, which is an illegal settler colony.

The problem that this language of pure legalism (in the statist framework) creates is the confusion of the moral and ethical status of Israel and Hamas. For Wood, Israel is a lawful, legitimate entity no matter what it does, while declaring Hamas a terrorist organization. A lawful entity has to abide by the law, in this case, which the Zionist state does not, and according to the author it is just a ‘failure’. On the other hand, one cannot expect Hamas to act humanely, and lawfully, and it can create panic and chaos at its will. Looking closer, we see Hamas is fighting soldiers right now, and Israel, being a ‘legitimate’ state, has killed more than 36000 civilians, mostly children and women. If we follow the author while studying the acts of Hamas and Israel, keeping in view the strict legalism, we will lose track of reality.

The recent ceasefire deal brokered by the American Central Intelligence Agency,  on May 7, 2024, was accepted by Hamas but rejected by the Israeli state. Immediately after, Israel attacked Rafah, a designated safe zone for Palestinian refugees from northern Gaza. Despite knowing there was no Hamas presence, Israeli forces bombed Rafah again on May 26, killing over 80 people in the tent city. The massacre, the most brutal since the conflict began, and images of burnt children have shocked the world.

The more literature we analyze, the clearer it becomes that political commentators like Mr. Wood are not outliers in mainstream Western media. Instead, they shape the narrative for other journalists and influence policymakers.

One common trope that we see more these days in the backdrop of the October 7, 2023 attack, is to equate Hamas and Palestinian Resistance with the terror outfits, Daesh and Al-Qaeda, to present all Palestinians as terrorists, even when they are resisting occupiers. Daesh and Hamas are two completely different organizations, with active confrontation among them. Hamas had even arrested Daesh operators in Gaza, stopping it from setting a foothold in Gaza, and Palestine in general. Equating them as the same groups would be as bizarre as confusing Christians United for Israel and Martin Luther King Jr. as similar movements, while in reality, they are poles opposed. That they both ground their movement and ideas in Christianity, and that Christianity features in their vocabulary, does not mean they have a shared moral status. The same is the case with Hamas and ISIS. Both may be Muslim political actors, but that does not make them a monolith. 

The author claims, “Unlike Hamas, Israel purports to abide by the principles of the laws of war, including proportionality and distinction between combatants and civilians. Hamas has fought with transparent disregard for these principles.” This assertion is severely misleading. Even a layman following developments in the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court can see which party adheres to the laws of war and which one targets civilians to consolidate power over an occupied territory.

Zionist leaders have denied the possibility of a rules-based world order, where they have defied the ICJ rulings, while maintaining that their goal is to inflict as much damage to the Palestinians as possible. At the start of its bombardment on Gaza, many Israeli leaders including Netanyahu pledged for the complete destruction of the Strip, which Israel has eventually done.  

Mr. Woods overlooks critical facts, consistently portraying Israel as the sole legitimate actor due to his ideological biases. This stance implies indifference to the massacre of children as long as Israel and its Western allies are ‘fighting terrorism.’ Consequently, he criticizes Hamas while excusing Israel’s actions in Gaza, even misrepresenting statistics to justify the violence.

Engaging in a war of numbers is futile and distracts from the core issues within Western media and academia. However, even a simple Google search or quick fact-check on Twitter (X) would reveal the accurate death toll and identities of victims killed by the Israeli army, exposing the disingenuous nature of these commentators. This highlights the need for a critical reassessment of how such conflicts are reported and discussed, addressing the biases that distort the reality of the situation and the brutality of the Zionist state.

The discourse surrounding the issue of Palestine, particularly within Western media and academic circles, often centers around the qualitative and quantitative assessments of casualties, and the resulting chaos and sufferings, if at all. Criticism directed at the Zionist state primarily focuses on its restrictions on humanitarian aid to the oppressed population of Gaza, rather than on the broader issue of its legitimacy in destroying entire cities and orchestrating a humanitarian catastrophe. The very act of appealing to Israel to open aid channels starkly underscores the absolute totalitarian control exerted by the Zionist state over Gaza, as well as the influence it holds over Western media and commentators such as Wood. Within this context, the October 7th uprising can be understood as a slave revolt—a desperate attempt by an imprisoned populace to break free from an open-air prison and claim their freedom.

 

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Nusairat Hostage Rescue Operation Turns Into Palestinian Bloodbath

13 June, 2024 - 09:19

The rescue of four Israeli hostages held by Palestinian militants came in a veritable bloodbath at the Palestinian refugee camp of Nusairat on Saturday, where over two hundred people were killed in an assault that reportedly involved not only Israeli but American soldiers. What appears to have been a war crime, with the rescuers disguised as an aid convoy in the camp before opening fire as they made for the hostages, comes even as the United States purports to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians, and indicates direct complicity in a genocide that has slain tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians.

The American-Israeli rescue comes even as Washington insists, contrary to mounting evidence, that Israel has put forth a ceasefire plan that has been rejected by Hamas. In fact, the ceasefire plan, eerily similar to one that Hamas offered over the winter, has been rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu-Mileikowsky in what appears to be another humiliation for the nonetheless pliable would-be peacemaker Joseph Biden.

The Gazan health ministry, whose claims have been generally accepted as accurate, has at last count listed nearly three hundred victims of the Nusairat raid. According to the United States’ special rapporteur Francesca Albanese – whose office and role have been openly questioned by American officials because of her refusal to take Israeli claims at face value – the Israeli-American mission came disguised in an aid truck.

What transpired, even as the Israelis retrieved four hostages, was sheer carnage. Residents of the refugee camp described Israeli soldiers mowing down people in the street under air cover. Over sixty children have been confirmed slain among the hundreds of victims – though Israeli army spokesperson Daniel Hagari, whose clumsy mendacity has become a byword during the conflict, claims to know of less than a hundred captives.

Given the centrality of military might to Israel’s self-image as a confident and virile ethnostate, the Israeli public has long been dismayed at the military’s lack of actual accomplishments over the bloody campaign. Most Israelis, indeed, claim that they have not gone far enough in a war that was estimated to have killed nearly forty thousand Palestinians four months ago, after which the count has been lost amid the destruction but is almost certainly at least twice as high.

Nusairat massacre

An injured Palestinian woman lies in Al Awda hospital during an Israeli military operation in Al Nusairat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on, 08 June 2024. EFE/EPA/MOHAMMED SABER

Against this backdrop the raid’s success was hailed in Israel as a signal achievement; the sadistic brutality used to achieve this success was ignored. It seems a potential boost to the perennially brawling Israeli cabinet, which lost its seasoned member Benny Gantz – a former army commander and assembly speaker who has held a wide number of executive cabinet portfolios and who is a rival to Netanyahu-Mileikowsky – in a resignation. Rather than remorse over the senseless slaughter, Gantz’s resignation is on practical grounds, accusing the prime minister of a shortsighted strategy in a parting shot. The hype over the hostages’ release has the potential to obscure that criticism.

The most recognized of the retrieved hostages is Noa Argamani, whose capture was caught on camera during the Hamas-led raid in October 2023. Despite celebration by Tel Aviv, Hamas’ military wing claims that the Israeli attack’s victims included three Israeli hostages, of whom one was an American citizen. American citizens, such as the teenager Tawfic Abdul-Jabbar, have already been killed over the winter to no notable objection from their government, so it is safe to assume that Tel Aviv feels that the price is worth the positive press. Certainly, the deaths of hostages have never stopped Israel before.

If it is confirmed, as Albanese claims, that the attacking force were disguised as aid workers, then it amounts to an unambiguous war crime – quite apart from the summary mass executions that accompanied the attack. It has also been reported, notably by experienced journalist Afshin Rattansi, that the United States used the pier it had recently constructed on the Gazan shoreline to Nusairat’s northwest in order to support the attack. Washington has publicly rejected the claim in keeping with a pattern of denials; however, it appears certain that American soldiers participated in the raid.

If so, it will be familiar ground for Erik Kurilla, the generalissimo at Central Command, the United States’ military command for the mostly Muslim region of Southwest Asia. Kurilla cut his teeth in the United States’ wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting in the major 2004 battle of Mosul before his promotion to lead raiding forces in Afghanistan. He then took charge of airborne troops at the premier American base in Afghanistan at Bagram, and supervised the scrambled withdrawal from the country in 2021 before his promotion to the Central Command, where in keeping with the job’s pattern he has been an unabashed supporter of Israel. Raids and “special operations” of the sort conducted in Nusairat have been a staple of Kurilla’s career.

 

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Commemorating The Nakba: Profiles In Palestinian Resistance

 

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Podcast [Man2Man]: From the Frontlines of Gaza | Dr. Jawad Khan & Omar Sabha

12 June, 2024 - 11:00

Dr. Jawad Khan and Omar Sabha, two medical professionals who recently returned from a relief mission to Gaza, speak to Irtiza Hasan about the harrowing realities and powerful lessons of their experiences in Gaza. From their journey into Gaza through the Rafah border, to the heartbreaking and spiritually moving interactions with the people of Gaza, Dr. Khan and Omar’s stories are deeply moving to listen to. In these days of Dhul Hijjah, the lessons of Gaza have much to teach us about the spirit of Hajj – for those at home and elsewhere.

Omar Sabha is a former US marine and currently a Surgery Room Nurse and Dr Jawad Khan, an Orthopedic Hand Specialist. Both current reside in SoCal and recently spent 10 days (April 1 to April 11) on a relief mission to Gaza.

The post Podcast [Man2Man]: From the Frontlines of Gaza | Dr. Jawad Khan & Omar Sabha appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Maryland Educators To Survey Muslim Experiences With Education

12 June, 2024 - 08:13
New Survey to Analyze Muslim Educational Experiences

The past generation has seen unprecedented levels of often hostile scrutiny on Muslims in the United States, largely linked both to the United States’ entanglement in Muslim countries and a thriving Islamophobia industry that has sought to misinform the public on Islam.

The experiences of Muslim students, families, and teachers in the education system are the focus of a survey by the American Muslim Empowered Education Network, pithily abbreviated AMEEN, which hopes to analyze and address these issues.

AMEEN

AMEEN was founded by experienced teacher and educational administrator Farhana Shah, whose work over twenty years has especially focused on correcting American misunderstandings of Islam. She has designed courses to brief educators on the background, history, and role of Islam and Muslims in order to enable them to engage their Muslim students and communities in a more empathetic and productive manner. In addition she has presented on Muslim culture at the Smithsonian Institute and Library of Congress.

Three Surveys:

In order to better understand and address the experiences in education, and address the concerns of the Muslim community, AMEEN has prepared three anonymous surveys in which American Muslims are requested to participate: one for students, one for their families, and one for their educators.

“In order to elevate our community’s concerns,” the organization says, “it is crucial that we have an accurate assessment of what our children are experiencing. We appreciate your participation in this important effort as it requires a village to raise confident, self-assured, and secure children.”

The surveys can be found below:

1. Muslim Student Survey (for students in grades 4-12)
2. Muslim Parent/Guardian/Caregiver Voice Survey (For parents of students in grades pre-K – 12)
3. Muslim Teacher and School Staff Survey

Related:

3 Fun And Educational Dhul Hijjah Activities For Children

[Podcast] Public School, Islamic School, Or Homeschool Education? | Omar Abdul Fatah

The post Maryland Educators To Survey Muslim Experiences With Education appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Dhul Hijjah With Kids In The Home And Palestine On Our Minds

11 June, 2024 - 15:30

Where I am in Malaysia, the first day of Dhul Hijjah was on Saturday. We are already in the final month of the Islamic calendar.

It has been a whirlwind since Ramadan, and now we’re already settling into the sacred month of Hajj season. Even though we may not have been given the invitation to Hajj/Umrah this year, there are many other ways we can celebrate this blessed month, especially with little ones in tow.

Dhul Hijjah with Littles

I talk to my children about Dhul Hijjah by telling them stories about Prophet Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), Hajar raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her), and baby Ismail 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). They marvel at the degree of trust Hajar had in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), and how brave she was to search for food and water for her baby when there was no hope in sight. None of them have seen a barren desert before, so I hope that when we do get to go to Umrah and Hajj together one day inshaAllah, these stories will take on a new level of reality for them. 

My children are still under 9, but older than they used to be, alhamdulilah. I am safely away from those intense early years of diapers and nursing, but now in a different zone of parenting children in pre-school and primary school; which brings with it a different set of joys and challenges.

Now, we’re in the era of reading daily dua’s, memorizing Juz Amma, and daily rituals like praying Maghrib together as a family. Sprinkled throughout our days are reminders to have good character with one another, apologizing when we make mistakes, and asking ourselves what our intentions are before we do/say something – for myself as well as my children!

Significance of Dhul Hijjah

The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said about the first 10 days of Dhul Hijjah:

“There are no days on which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these ten days.”1

I was amazed to learn that every night in the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah is equivalent to the Night of Decree, as narrated by the authority of Abu Hurayrah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) who said that the Prophet ﷺ said:

“No days are more beloved to worship Allah than the first ten days of Dhu’l-Hijjah. Fasting therein is equivalent to fasting for a year, and observing night prayer (Tahajjud) every night therein is equivalent to the Night of Decree.”2

These blessed 10 days are a critical time to be worshipping Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), through prayer, fasting, and making dua’, especially for our Palestinian brothers and sisters.

Preoccupied with Palestine

While I go through my daily routine, my heart and mind are preoccupied with Palestine. When I put my children to sleep to the sound of falling rain, I think of mothers like me who are putting their children to the sound of falling bombs. When my husband goes to work, I think of the fathers who leave their homes to search for food, only to return to their martyred children.

I can only hope to be resurrected with these martyrs, whose imaan and good deeds far surpass mine.

Narrated Abu Musa raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

It was said to the Prophet ﷺ; , “A man may love some people but he cannot catch up with their good deeds?” The Prophet ﷺ said, “Everyone will be with those whom he loves.”3

Dua’s

To remind myself so I don’t fall into despair, I teach my children that every single one of our dua’s are answered by Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) – even if it doesn’t happen right away, or in the specific way we want it to happen. None of our prayers are wasted. We don’t see the angels taking up the souls of the martyrs when we scroll down on social media, but Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) promise is true.

It was narrated from Abu Sa’eed raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) that the Prophet ﷺ said:

“There is no Muslim who does not offer any du’a in which there is no sin or severing of family ties but Allah will give him one of three things in return: either He will answer his du’a sooner, or he will store it up for him in the Hereafter, or He will divert an equivalent evil away from him because of it.” They said: “We will say a lot of du’a.” He said: “Allah is more generous.”4

“And do not say about those who are killed in the way of Allah, ‘They are dead.’ Rather, they are alive, but you perceive [it] not.” [Surah al-Baqarah 2:154]

“And never think of those who have been killed in the cause of Allah as dead. Rather, they are alive with their Lord, receiving provision.” [Surah A’li ‘Imraan 3:169]

Reaping the Rewards of Hajj

Reading books about Hajj to my children is one of my favorite Hajj-building exercises to do with them. I hope to cultivate their longing to see the Ka’bah with their own eyes, and to pray in the Masjid Al Nabawi as well. Telling them stories about when I went on Hajj with their uncle is another way of increasing their curiosity about Hajj adventures with family. 

Even though we’re not going to Hajj this year, the following hadiths bring me so much comfort:

Abu Dharr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrated that a group of the Companions came to the Prophet ﷺ and said:

“O Messenger of Allah, the wealthy people will have higher grades and will have permanent enjoyment and they pray like us and fast as we do. They have more money, which they give in charity.” The Prophet ﷺ  replied: “Has Allah not rendered for you the ‘Isha’ prayer in congregation equal to Hajj, and the Fajr prayer in congregation equal to ‘Umrah?” [Muslim]

The Prophet ﷺ  also said:

“Whoever walks to [perform] an obligatory prayer in congregation, it is like Hajj [in terms of rewards], and whoever walks to [perform] a voluntary prayer, it is like a voluntary ‘Umrah [in terms of rewards].” [Hasan hadith narrated by Tabarani, Abu Dawud, Ahmad]

These aḥādīth tie in beautifully with the daily prayer traditions my husband and I are trying to model for our young children. Herding three active young children into prayer feels like a challenge sometimes. But all we can do is keep showing up, one day at a time, and make dua’ so that they too will taste the sweetness of prayer. I hope and pray that their memories of cuddles and kisses after prayer will tide them through whatever life will bring them.

I make dua’ that one day soon, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will invite us to make Umrah with our children.

A Time for Renewal

Dhul Hijjah is a wonderful opportunity to renew my intentions to make dua’ for all the families in Palestine and elsewhere. This is also a time for renewal of my intentions to pay back my obligatory fasts, commit to sunnah fasts, increase in giving to charity, and read more Qur’an. Most of all, this is my reminder to increase in gratitude for the tremendous blessing of living in safety and comfort.

So many parts of our ummah are suffering right now: Sudan, Congo, India, China, and Myanmar, to name a few. May Allahsubḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) liberate Palestine and all the parts of the ummah that are oppressed. May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) establish peace upon this earth, when there is currently so much bloodshed. From Him we come, and to Him we will all return.

 

Related:

When Allah Chooses Something: The Blessings Of Dhul Hijjah

1    https://sunnah.com/tirmidhi:7572    https://sunnah.com/ibnmajah:17283    https://sunnah.com/bukhari:61704    https://sunnah.com/mishkat:2259

The post Dhul Hijjah With Kids In The Home And Palestine On Our Minds appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

A Wish And A Cosmic Bird: A Play

10 June, 2024 - 04:30

A PLAY IN FOUR ACTS

By Wael Abdelgawad

 

Act One – Jeff Bezos’ Yacht

Location: A corner office in a New York skyscraper. An amazing view from the window.

Man 1 is 60ish, dressed in a beautiful suit and tie. He sits in a desk chair, looking out of the window, with a small table beside him. Man 2 stands behind him holding a bottle and two glasses. He is younger and more casually dressed.

Corner office with a view of the city and bayMAN 1: Look at that view! You can see all the way across the bay. I guess this is the top of the ladder for me. Executive VP of Kleiner Industries. I can’t go any higher.

MAN 2: It’s a great achievement. Let’s toast.

Man 2 fills both glasses and the men touch glasses and drink.

MAN 2: To success! You earned it. You worked your way up for thirty years.

MAN 1: Thirty-five. I just wish…

MAN 2: What?

MAN 1: I wish I could have gone higher. I’ll never be CEO. I’ll never be one of the powerful people.

MAN 2: It’s a family-owned company. Only Kleiners will ever be CEO. You get paid well though, right? How much was your bonus this year?

MAN 1: That’s confidential.

MAN 2: More than ten million?

MAN 1: (Smiles to himself) – Again, I don’t like to share –

MAN 2: (Interrupts) – More than twenty?

MAN 1: (Frowns) – Don’t get crazy.

MAN 2: Okay, so between ten and twenty. That’s not bad. Really, pretty good.

MAN 1: (Turns to partially face the younger man) – What do you mean? How much was yours?

MAN 2: (Grinning) – I thought that was confidential.

MAN 1: (In a hard tone) – I’m serious. How much was yours?

MAN 2: Twenty-two.

MAN 1: (Stands up) – Twenty-two million dollars? You’re not even forty years old. You’re not even management. You’re a damn salesman!

MAN 2: I brought in the Saudi contract. That’s a three-billion-dollar deal.

MAN 1: (Glares for a while, then sits and faces the window again) – What does it matter? Ten million, twenty. It’s pennies. See that yacht out there? It’s nothing. Jeff Bezos’ yacht is 127 meters long. It cost 500 million dollars. That’s money! That’s the power to control things, to rule the world. Everything else is a joke.

MAN 2: You live well. Didn’t you just take your family to Paris?

MAN 1: (Sneers) – A month in the damn Paris Hilton, fighting with my wife. My daughters hate me, won’t speak to me. They say I’m a merchant of death. Doesn’t stop them from driving the Ferraris I bought them.

MAN 2: (Sets down his glass) – Does it ever bother you though? What we do? Our weapons kill people every day. Those DU artillery shells have a radioactive half-life of millions of years. Our clients drop them on villages and whole tribes get sick. There are children out there dying of cancer. I have relatives in that part of the world, you know.

MAN 1: You’re the one who sells the stuff.

MAN 2: I know, but I don’t know if I can keep doing it. It’s immoral.

MAN 1: Morality is a fiction created by the poor to hamstring the rich.

MAN 2: What about God? Faith?

MAN 1: The opium of the masses.

MAN 2: You’re quoting Marx?

MAN 1: Do you want to give back your twenty-two million dollar bonus?

MAN 2: I’m not saying all that.

MAN 1: Then shut up, you miserable hypocrite. My daughters are right, we are merchants of death. But we’re rich. We sold our souls. Accept it.

MAN 2: So you’re totally happy?

MAN 1: Of course I’m not happy! Haven’t you heard a word I said? I’m miserable, I have a miserable family, and I’m stuck in a dead-end job. That’s why I need to be a billionaire. At that level you become your own god. A five hundred million dollar yacht, can you imagine that?

Man 2 walks away.

Act 2 – 30th Birthday

Location: The kitchen of a middle-class home in California.

Two Muslim women sit at a kitchen table. One is wearing hospital scrubs. On the table is a small cake with birthday candles on it, and a wrapped gift.

breakfast with the khansBIRTHDAY WOMAN: Did you really have to go and put all 30 birthday candles in there? It looks like a porcupine on fire.

FRIEND: Might as well face reality.

Birthday Woman blows out the candles.

FRIEND: Did you make a wish?

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: More like a dua’.

FRIEND: You probably wished you didn’t have those wrinkles around your eyes.

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: Uh! You jerk! (Swipes some cake frosting and smears it on her friend’s face).

FRIEND: (Scoops the frosting from her face and licks it) – Thank you! That’s better than anything in the hospital cafeteria.

Birthday Woman begins cutting the cake and serving it.

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: Are you sure you can’t come to the party tonight?

FRIEND: I’m working a double at the hospital. I’m not lucky like you, I don’t have a rich husband, remember?

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: I work too. Everything I have I struggled for, and Allah blessed me. Did you forget where I came from? When we were kids, I used to fix my shoes with duct tape. The kids called me Raggedy Ann.

FRIEND: I know. I’m sorry. How’s your yoga supplies business going?

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: Alhamdulillah, it’s growing. And I enjoy it. I still do yoga every day. Would you believe my yoga instructor is doing a five-day seminar in the Bahamas? Five days of yoga on the beach, meditation, and sleeping in a hammock.

FRIEND: You should go.

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: Can’t afford it. It’s five thousand dollars.

FRIEND: (Whistles) – Who has five thousand dollars for a yoga seminar? Can you imagine being that rich? Seminar in the Bahamas? Let’s go. Feel like having fish and chips? Off to London! There are people like that, you know?

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: I don’t want that kind of money.

FRIEND (Incredulous) – Why not?

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: My way of life is poverty, not the pursuit of wealth. Win a name through hardship, not by selling yourself.

FRIEND: Who said that?

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: Muhammad Iqbal. Look… Remember Christina, the wealthy woman I worked for when I was in college?

FRIEND: The lady with the mansion.

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: I never told anyone this. But she was depressed and nearly suicidal. She’d throw these grand parties, which I would cater, and she’d be bubbly and laughing. When it was over I’d walk her upstairs and put my arm around her while she wept. She was alone with her antique furniture and art, and all her money. The woman wasn’t even fifty years old but I used to put her to bed and tell her Mullah Nasruddin stories until she fell asleep. She actually wrote me into her will, then she saw a newspaper photo of me at a rally for Palestine, and she fired me.

FRIEND: I would still want to be able to fly to Paris whenever I wanted! Can you imagine? That’s the definition of a good life, right there. (sighs). I can only wish.

Birthday Woman’s phone rings. She listens to the caller and looks shocked.

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: (Talking into the phone) – Is this for real? There’s no doubt? What can we do? (Listens some more) – La hawla wa la quwwata illa billah. Okay. Okay, let me know. (Hangs up and turns to Friend) – My brother is alive. Or at least, some aid worker talked to a witness who says he’s alive.

FRIEND: What will you do?

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: I don’t know.

FRIEND: You should call your cousin Saleh.

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: Saleh? He’s a jerk. He’s a rotten human being, actually.

They sit silently for a moment.

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: Okay. I’ll call Saleh.

Act 3 – Do You Miss Them?

Location: A bare room in a decrepit home, somewhere in the Middle East.

Two boys sleep on the floor. They are thin, with dirty faces and ragged clothes. They wear the traditional clothing of their country – thobes, or shalwar kameez. One is a few years older than the other. The older boy wakes up, and then sits cross-legged with his face in his hands. The younger boy begins to moan in his sleep. The older boy goes to him and wakes him up. As he does, he makes an effort to put a smile on his face.

Dusty bare room in old houseOLDER BOY: Hey, wake up. You’re dreaming.

The younger boy wakes slowly and sits up, rubbing his face.

YOUNGER BOY: Is there any food?

OLDER BOY: No. But we’ll go to the Green Crescent station. They might give us bread or soup.

YOUNGER BOY: It’s too far.

OLDER BOY: We can sneak into the back of a truck and get a ride.

YOUNGER BOY: I wish Baba was here. Do you think he’ll ever come back?

The older boy’s smile fades.

OLDER BOY: It’s been two years. If he was alive he would have returned to us, or sent a message. But it’s okay. We have each other, and we have this house. We have Allah, He’s on our side. Whatever Allah has planned for us, we’ll find it.

YOUNGER BOY: I miss our parents. Do you miss them?

The older boy stands and turns away.

OLDER BOY: Yes. I miss them.

YOUNGER BOY: I heard that in Europe people have refrigerators and there’s always food in them. They open the refrigerator anytime they want and eat cheese, or meat, or whatever they like. Even cake.

OLDER BOY: (turning back to face his brother) – Yes, I heard that.

YOUNGER BOY: I wish we were Europeans. I wish we had a refrigerator. Can you imagine what that’s like?

OLDER BOY: I don’t want to be European.

YOUNGER BOY: Why not?

OLDER BOY: Because I’m Muslim, that’s worth more than anything. I wouldn’t trade that for a thousand refrigerators, even if they had lamb and Syrian cheese in them.

YOUNGER BOY: I’m so hungry.

OLDER BOY: We’ll find something inshaAllah, I promise. If we have to, we can go up the mountain and pick flowers. I heard that people can eat flowers.

VOICE CALLING FROM OUTSIDE: The IR aid station has rice! Rice at the aid station!

The boys’ eyes grow wide.

OLDER BOY: Rice! Grab your bowl!

They grab two bowls from the floor and rush off the stage.

Act 4 – Something Better

Location: A bare, dark room.

Scene 1

Two men (between 25 and 35 years old) sit in a bare room. They are bound to chairs and hooded. Their clothing is ragged and bloodstained.

Old and dirty prison cellPRISONER 1: They’ve never taken us out of our cell before.

Prisoner 2 does not respond.

PRISONER 1: Are you there?

PRISONER 2: I’m here.

PRISONER 1: Why didn’t you answer me? Do you think they will beat us?

PRISONER 2: They beat us all the time anyway.

PRISONER 1: (Getting agitated.) So why did they bring us here? They never hooded us before. Are they finally going to kill us?

PRISONER 2: Allahu a’lam.

PRISONER 1: Oh my God, you think they’re going to kill us. But why? Why should they kill us just for protesting and demanding freedom?

PRISONER 2: They can only do what Allah permits them to do.

PRISONER 1: (Angrily) – How does that work? Will Allah come and take away their guns?

PRISONER 2: If every human being and jinn who ever lived wanted to hurt us, they could only do what Allah permits them to do.

PRISONER 1: I’m not ready to die. I want to see my family. They need me. Just imagine, there are places in the world where you can say whatever you want, travel where you like, and no one kidnaps you or kills you. You can live your life and be free. I wish we lived in a place like that.

PRISONER 2: We have something better than that.

PRISONER 1: What? What do we have?

PRISONER 2: (Recites Quran 9:72 in Arabic, then in English): – Allah has promised the believers, both men and women, Gardens under which rivers flow, to stay there forever, and splendid homes in the Gardens of Eternity, and—above all—the pleasure of Allah. That is ˹truly˺ the ultimate triumph.

PRISONER 1: I don’t know. That sounds good but I wish I could feel the sun on my face again, just one more time.

the birdPRISONER 2: A wish is a firefly. It glows for a minute and makes you feel good, then it dies. Make dua’ instead. Like a firefly, dua’ has wings, but it’s a cosmic bird. It doesn’t just buzz around your head, it flies to the Throne of Allah and makes itself known. What do you want representing you, a firefly or a cosmic bird?

PRISONER 1: Dua’ is just words.

PRISONER 2: If you’ve ever believed anything I said, believe this. Dua’ can tumble mountains and overthrow empires. Dua’ can open a path for you into the garden. Make dua’ and Allah will not let you down.

PRISONER 1: O Allah save me, O Allah save me, O Allah save me, O Allah save me, O Allah save me.

PRISONER 2: (laughs) – You know what you want, I’ll give you that. Ameen!

Two guards wearing ski masks enter the room. They both hold guns and flashlights.

GUARD 1: Which one of them is it?

The guards pull the hoods off the prisoners and shine the flashlights on them. We see that the prisoners’ faces are bruised and bloody. The prisoners blink at the light and peer around. Guard 2 touches the barrel of his gun to Prisoner 1’s forehead.

GUARD 2: This one.

PRISONER 1: No! You don’t have to do this. Please, I don’t want to die!

GUARD 2: Untie him.

Guard 1 unties Prisoner 1’s bonds and helps him to his feet.

GUARD 2: You’re a lucky man. You’ve been ransomed. You’re going home.

PRISONER 1: What ransom? What are you talking about?

GUARD 2: Someone paid 22 million dollars to free you.

PRISONER 1: 22 million dollars? I don’t know anyone with that kind of money.

GUARD 2: Some rich weapons dealer named Saleh. What do you care? You’re free.

The guards begin to lead Prisoner 1 toward the exit. Prisoner 1 stops.

PRISONER 1: What about my friend?

GUARD 1: No one paid for him.

PRISONER 1: I’m not leaving without him.

GUARD 2: That’s not happening.

PRISONER 1: (Looks around wide-eyed, closes his eyes for a moment, then settles into a look of resolve.) – Then… then I’m staying too.

PRISONER 2: No! You made dua’ for freedom, now you have it. And you have a family. Go! I’m okay here. I have Allah by my side. I’m not afraid to die, truly.

GUARD 2: It’s not your choice anyway. You’re the one they paid for, you’re the one they get.

The guards drag Prisoner 1 off the stage as he protests, insisting that they should free his friend as well. Prisoner 2 stares after them, then smiles.

Scene 2

First rays of sun

Location: The home of the two boys from Act 3.

The boys sit on the floor of the room, eating meager portions of rice from their bowls.

YOUNGER BOY: I chew every bite seventy times. That way it lasts longer. I wish we had salt or pepper.

OLDER BOY: Alhamdulillah for what we have.

YOUNGER BOY: This is a good day, huh?

OLDER BOY: (smiles) – Yes. It’s a good day.

Prisoner 1 walks in. The boys shout, “Baba!” and run to him. He kneels and they all embrace for a long time. Finally they break the embrace, though the children continue to hold their father’s hands.

YOUNGER BOY: Where did you go? We thought you were dead.

FATHER: I was a prisoner.

OLDER BOY: How did you get out?

FATHER: I don’t really know. I think one of my cousins paid a ransom. I have a friend who would say that Allah freed me.

YOUNGER BOY: Which friend?

FATHER: Someone I had to leave behind.

OLDER BOY: What’s his name?

FATHER: Sit down, I will tell you about him. Maybe together we can think of a way to help him.

 

THE END

 

Reader comments and constructive criticism are important to me, so please comment!

See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories on this website.

Wael Abdelgawad’s novels – including Pieces of a Dream, The Repeaters and Zaid Karim Private Investigator – are available in ebook and print form on his author page at Amazon.com.

Related:

A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 18] The Bird

Breakfast With The Khans [Act One] – A Play

The post A Wish And A Cosmic Bird: A Play appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Podcast [Man2Man]: Hadith and Beyond | Mufti Muntasir Zaman

4 June, 2024 - 11:00

Mufti Muntasir Zaman joins Irtiza Hasan on Man2Man to discuss his experiences during his journey in pursuing sacred knowledge and talks about some of his works, and what fuels his passion for the field of Hadith. Mufti Muntasir’s insights on hadith and the modern world are particularly relevant in today’s world, where secularism and atheism constantly challenge the spiritual tradition of Islam.

Mufti Muntasir Zaman is a full time instructor at Qalam Institute and researcher at Yaqeen Institute. He graduated from the ʿĀlimiyyah program of the Madrasah ʿArabiyyah Islāmiyyah in South Africa and then completed the Iftā program and a course specializing in the field of Hadīth. Additionally, he holds an MA in Islamic Studies from the Markfield Institute of Higher Education in Leicester, England. Mufti Muntasir writes articles, book reviews, and translations of classical Islamic literature.

Related:

In Defense Of Abu Hurayrah

 

[Podcast] Man 2 Man: Why Western Academics Hate Hadith

The post Podcast [Man2Man]: Hadith and Beyond | Mufti Muntasir Zaman appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

The Little Muslimah – A Short Story

3 June, 2024 - 03:00

Ali bin Abi Talib reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Gabriel, upon him be peace, said to me: O Muhammad, love whom you wish for you will surely part with them, act as you wish for you will surely see its results, and live as you wish for you will surely die.” The Prophet said, “Gabriel had been concise with me in his discourse.” [Ḥilyat al-Awliyā’ 3/202]

***

[Adapted from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”]

 

To be a human was a painful thing. 

For one, Alara never thought that one could be dying while still alive.

The sea witch had warned her. And she had agreed, of sound body and mind. It was her voice that had been taken away, not her brain, and certainly not her heart. But she wished that it had been. She would not be facing this torment otherwise.

Tears began to sting her eyes, like mist from the sea decorating her face with dewdrops. The vocal contract replaced the sigh of the gentle tide:

“Feel as though a sword passes through you

The pain will stay, your feet will bleed through 

Your feet shall walk, as if on a knife 

Win his heart, or else you lose your life.”

She opened her eyes again, and another stab of pain ripped her apart.

There he was—the prince she had sacrificed everything for. Walking along the shore with his wife-to-be.

Alara was wrong. She was not dying. Death would have been merciful in a moment like this.

Her grandmother called it the “Ottoman Empire.”

It had been alive for almost as long as she had. A mermaid lived three hundred years, but humans, and even their empires, did not.

But one of the many years in the life of a mermaid was when she turned eighteen. It was then she was permitted to rise to the surface.

“Why?” Alara had asked. One by one her five sisters would go up. Five years would pass before she was ever allowed to see the moonlight on the surface of the ocean.

“Because humans are cruel,” her grandmother answered. “Your father is a good king, but many rulers on the surface are not.” With a sigh, she continued, “That is why we only allow you to rise in Dhul Qi’dah—a month where even they are not at war.”

So Alara remained patient. Her grandmother told her that flowers had fragrance up above. So too, instead of fishes that ate from their palms, there were fishes with wings—called birds. And they could sing, like the people in the mosques and minarets. They would sail in things called “ships,” and travel the world boundlessly.

Ships were her favorite, as well as her sisters. Often, they would collect whatever treasures they could find from the wreckage. Her sisters had taken chests and coins, but Alara chose a portrait of a prince that sank. He was handsome, noble-looking, and she dreamt of seeing him when it finally came for her to go to the surface.

By and by the paint began to fade away, but she kept the thought of him in her mind. Her daydreams were plentiful, with more being added with each story and each visit from her sisters.

“I rose in the middle of the night!” the eldest said. “I rested on the sandbank, basking in the moonlight, and gazed at a town nearby. Oh, their lanterns glowed like stars!”

The second eldest was even more elated. “I saw the horizon that Büyükanne talked about! It was beautiful… at sunset, they see more colors than we have names for.”

“They have more animals than us!” the third reported. “I heard the birds singing—all kinds—and crying above me when I came to shore. And a dog chased me!”

The fourth sister stayed in the center of the sea. “Their ships are so much more beautiful when they are put together. I saw the humans dance on their decks…”

With not much else to discover, the fifth sister focused on the glassy surface. “There were icebergs like great pearls and diamonds, and I tasted rain for the first time.”

Finally, it was her turn. Mindful of the stories from her sisters, Alara decided to rise as the sun set. She could not have chosen a more perfect time. The sun was bathed in scarlet and took the rest of the light with it, and night was just beginning to showcase the stars. There were no people at the beach; instead, they were right on the water. A mosque as blue as the ocean was reflected in it, calling everyone to prayer. She sighed longingly, wishing she could join them. A few came too close to shore, and she dove beneath the waters. She felt darkness creep over her, and she resisted the eagerness to see the canopy of stars coming over her.

When she lifted her head once more, her breath was taken away—not by the gills having to adjust to the air all around her, but by a great ship before her.

So that was the darkness, a moment ago! It was passing over her. Now, Istanbul—the human city her grandmother had mentioned so many times—was illuminated. Fireworks boomed over the Bosphorus, creating ripples of their own in the sky. She marveled at the ones that looked like sprouted coral, others with sparks that scattered like minnows, all decorated in bright colors that replaced the departed afternoon sky.

But a sight more incredible than all of that emerged on the ship. Him—the prince from the painting.

Alara forgot the sky, the sea, and everything around her. She even forgot herself.

She watched as the prince spoke happily with others, sharing in his own personal merriment. It was his birthday, too! The thought of some kind of commonality between them was no short of reassuring. It was meant to be, that she stumbled upon his party—the invitation was from destiny itself.

However, the sea did not share in their celebration. As though angered by the late festivities, it began to toss and turn. Alara feared not for herself; as she could not be sunk nor drowned. But she feared for the prince.

Without warning, the tides became tumultuous. Clouds raged above them, pouring rain and clapping thunder in warning. But it was far too late for an escape. The ship was crushed by waves in all directions, and was dragged down to join the rest of its comrades in the deep. 

Alara panicked. She dove down among the rest of the wreckage, tail swishing faster than it ever had in her life. The lightening illuminated her sight well enough to spot the prince, frantically fighting with his last few breaths to reach the surface. Then he grew unnervingly still. She darted to his side and fought against gravity, water, and even what may have been destiny itself to bring him back to shore.

When she brought him to the beach, his eyes were still shut tight. But his chest moved up and down, gently, like seaweed flowing slowly back and forth. She could not take her eyes off him; afraid that if she did, his breathing would fail him. So she stayed with him until dawn began to creep behind her.

The Blue Mosque called fajr, and people began to appear. She swallowed. The myths of mermaids were all too cruel—that they were the ones who destroyed ships, in search of their treasures, and that they murdered for pleasure. 

They spoke the same language, did they not? All she had to do was tell them that she was not so different… she might have a tail, and gills, and he did not, but they both had hearts.

But she remembered the caution from the stories shared earlier, and she pulled herself away once more. Alara watched, instead and again, as another woman approached the prince. She gasped at the sight of him and called for help. At the sound of her voice, the eyes of the prince opened. And there Alara saw the most painful sight of all: his smile as he beheld her.

She dove down, down, down, thinking of how happy she had been only a few hours before. Her only pause in her descent was to pray, and then collapse in her bedroom. 

Surprisingly, she was able to sleep as long as she liked. She had expected her sisters to ask her about her journey, but none were interested. 

“Alara? Will you not come out? There was a shipwreck last night, and there are such beautiful things!”

The most beautiful thing of all was taken, she thought mournfully.

Hours passed, and Büyükanne entered the bedroom. A princess behaving in this manner was unbecoming. But she was patient, hearing what her granddaughter had to say before rebuking her. 

Alara confessed all that had happened, how full of joy she had been, and how full of sorrow she was now. 

Calmly, Büyükanne spoke, “It is painful, but it will pass. Remember that humans make more enemies than friends, even among themselves. They are quick-tempered and cunning. And as for men… they are the worst of them. They may not cut out your heart, but they can still take it.”

She sighed. “Constantly, they say that you may spend paradise with your husband, if you marry him… but it is too heavy a price to pay for eternity. Live, my dear granddaughter, for three hundred years, unbothered by their rules and regulations.”

The little mermaid nodded.

“Do not fret. Your mother may not be here, but I have cared for you as though you are my daughter. We shall make a fine bride of you yet.”

But how could she marry someone else when she was still so set on another?

“And it will not be difficult to get you married. Some mermaids require magic in order to have matrimony!”

Alara resolved to be one of them. She kissed the hand of her grandmother and headed to play with her sisters, as well as say salaam to her father.

The palace was teeming with life, whereas the dwelling of the sea witch was almost overflowing with death. There was naught but sand and rocks, and the remains of ships that the princesses did not care for.

It was cold and dark, so much so that Alara could not address the sea witch without shivering. By contrast, the sea witch was calm and composed, stroking her water snakes. She was cloaked in flowing black robes. Not even a thread of hair showed from her aged face.

“I know what you wish for.”

Alara swallowed and bit her lip. “Any price.”

“Little princess, you only speak of price. And it is great. As well as the cost. But so too is the reward.”

“Anything.”

“The price is your voice,” the sea witch said. A smile crept onto her voice, spreading like one of her unwinding snakes. “The cost, you will never be able to swim with your pretty tail again. And it will hurt terribly.”

“Nothing is more painful than this.”

She cackled. “Oh, you sweet swan.” 

“As you said, the price and cost are great. But so is the reward.”

“Very well. Open your mouth.”

Alara swallowed. “Will you cut my tongue?”

“Heavens, no. I do not need to make a mess to make magic.”

“But how will you take my voice without my tongue?”

“You will be in so much pain that you will find even breathing a struggle. But surely your eyes, your grace, these things shall enchant him.”

The little mermaid thought carefully. This would be the last time she would see her sisters. Her beloved grandmother, and even her father. All for a prince she had never met.

But it was a risk she was willing to take. Her grandmother had said that the humans believed in an eternity with their spouses, and that was something even a life of three hundred years in this underwater utopia could not compare to.

She swallowed and surrendered. The sea witch began chanting, and it echoed with her as she rose once more to the surface. She had been instructed not to drink it until she had risen.

“Feel as though a sword passes through you

The pain will stay, your feet will bleed through 

Your feet shall walk, as if on a knife 

Win his heart, or else you lose your life.”

The little muslimah

PC: Annette Batista Day (unsplash)

The potion had worked like an anesthesia; as the operation was far too great for her to remain conscious for it. The only thing she remembered before her eyes saw the blackness of her eyelids rather than the black sky was, in truth, a sword cutting her in a swipe that no scream could encapsulate, had she her voice.

It was the gentle voice of the muaddhin that woke her. Every movement she made seemed to aggravate the invisible pain; the surgery for which there was no scar. The waves rolled gently around her, taking her scales with them. Forever.

Ladies-in-waiting saw her from a distance and rushed to her side.

“Another shipwreck?” they asked.

“A princess?”

“Are you hurt?”

She opened her mouth, and nothing came out. They cast worried glances at each other, and passed it off as trauma from the wreck. “We will have to take her to Topkapı Palace,” one murmured. “See what the Sultan will say.”

The little mermaid—well, maiden, now—stumbled with each step. The ladies-in-waiting hailed a ride for them to reach the palace. Again, they attributed her struggle to a shipwreck. Despite the agony in her new legs, Alara smiled. The humans were coming up with excuses for her. Believable ones! Her bargain would never be exposed.

After being dressed in fine silk and muslin, the ladies-in-waiting brought her to the court. The sultan was away and had placed his son in charge. In that moment, the little maiden was thankful—had she her voice, she would have stammered at his handsomeness and tripped over her words as she had on her toes.

Salam alaykum,” he greeted. 

The ladies-in-waiting nudged her. But Alara shook her head, and again, opened her mouth—and nothing came out.

Alaykum as-salam, dear prince, she thought. I cannot speak.

She saw pity overtake him. He smiled gently as the ladies began to glare at her. So this was the quick temper that her grandmother had warned her about. Her new hijab covered her throat, making it difficult for them to see how she was gulping from nervousness.

“Ah, yes, you were found on the beach,” he continued. “I understand how scary that must be. Not too long ago, I washed up after a terrible storm. In fact… a sister rescued me, but I am afraid I will never see her again to thank her…”

Now Alara struggled in earnest. A cough came out, and with it, a searing of pain through her abdomen to her ankles. But no words formed.

Please let me stay.

His brows furrowed, trying to understand. Then he waved his hand authoritatively. “You may stay until your voice returns.”

She felt as though she had received another invitation again, this time, to be a part of his home. In time, she gained her footing. Her movements were slow and careful, and everyone took it to be a reflection of her grace. But truthfully, it was her gingerness in trying not to make her feet less painful.

The little maiden spent much time with the ladies-in-waiting. She learned how to wash clothes (there was no need to do that underwater), clean dishes, and set a table. Often, she would insist on this before meals at the palace. She sat on the opposite side of the table from the prince, who took note of her presence there every time they ate.

One night, as she was cleaning the table, she overheard him speaking to his servants.

“She seems familiar,” he told them. “I have seen her to be nothing but kind to others. I am sure she is of royalty. Look how she carries herself.”

“Şehzade, you cannot be serious!” one of the servants scoffed. “A mute? For a wife? Tell me… have you two communicated solely with your eyes?”

It is true. We have, Alara thought. All she had to do was think of the words, and somehow, he would say what was on her mind.

“Her feet bleed, Şehzade,” another urged. “I still do not know why. The doctor has no answers. But it is every time she walks. How can you expect her to run after children?”

Alara learned that night that you did not need a voice to cry. 

Her dream of being with the prince was beginning to fade, just like he had in the painting. 

Servants spoke incessantly about how the prince felt for the washed-up girl, much to both of their embarrassment. The sultan had to put the rumors to an end. Word was sent throughout the country, privately, that his son was eligible for marriage. What embarrassment it would be for this maiden, whom he had no knowledge of her family or background, to marry his son.

Every day, the little maiden prayed that her prince would sacrifice as much for her as she had for him. She learned the rituals that the humans exchanged in—salah, they called it—and despite the aching in her legs, she performed each of its requirements with perfection. Fajr, dhuhr, asr, maghrib, and isha, she begged to marry him.

But time passed, with no answer to her du’as in sight. It seemed to be getting worse. The prince met more and more ladies each day, which made her heart skip. And when he turned them away, only then would it settle.

He seemed to be getting exasperated with every meeting. Often, he complained to her of how unfair the situation was, how this was not something he wanted, and how neither of these women was what he wanted in a wife.

“When will it end?” he asked. “I am so tired of praying and waiting.”

I am too.

“If only she would appear, right in front of me.”

I am here.

His eyes darted towards her once, then away. With a sigh, he bid her salaam, and decided to return to court for his next appointment.

The woman who had found him on the beach was waiting for him.

The day after the wedding, she would be foam of the sea.

The little maiden gave the prince her blessing with a nod of the head. And her kindness was so great that she helped the ladies-in-waiting fit the new princess in her wedding dress. It had not even been a few weeks since she had had the same thing happen to her.

As the princess walked towards the prince in the ceremony, Alara held the train of her dress. It was as if she was underwater; the congratulations and nasheeds were muffled. Her feet throbbed with stabbing pain, her heart broke with every step.

Alara embarked on the ship with them, where they were set to go on their honeymoon. She followed the ladies-in-waiting to their own quarters. When all was finally silent, she rose to the deck and sobbed.

“Sister!”

She gasped.

“Sister, look up! We feel your tears falling into the sea! We can stop them!”

Confused, she looked out of the ship. All five of her sisters were gesturing towards her, their beautiful hair chopped and ragged. One was carrying a knife.

“The sea witch bargained with us! We gave her our hair, while the hair of Büyükanne fell out in despair, knowing you will die. Pierce the heart of the prince, and let the blood fall on your legs. You will have a tail again, and you can live out life happily with us! Hurry!”

They tossed the knife aboard, and the little maiden caught it before it clattered too much on the deck. Despite the torment, she tiptoed below to the suite of the prince and princess. Both were sleeping soundly, wrapped together like two sea flowers.

She looked as happy as Alara did at the first glance of the prince. He, too, finally appeared content. Alara trembled. She had prayed behind both of them. Eaten from their wedding feast. To kill them now was evil behavior. Exactly the kind that Büyükanne had warned about.

Perhaps she had really become human after all.

Horrified at the thought of being evil, she left the room quietly. Careful not to disturb anyone else, she let the dagger fall into the depths, and dove down after it. 

She asked Allah to forgive her.

When she awoke, there was only darkness. Alara opened her eyes, puzzled, and tried to rise. To her surprise, she saw bubbles rise from her mouth.

It could not be. She jolted, and doing so flung the covers all about her. They fluttered around her, unbound by gravity, and before her was her tail—scales and all.

There was no pain.

“Ah, little princess. You are awake.” The sea witch floated near her snakes, pouring ingredients into another cauldron. Alara suddenly felt fury.

You tricked me. You tricked them!

“He was the one who bewitched you. Not me.” She hardly blinked as she stirred the concoction before her. “I told your sisters that only blood was needed for your tail. But as you can imagine, they were enraged at the prince for taking you.”

So what about my sisters and their hair?

“It will grow back,” the sea witch said with a shrug.

What about what Büyükanne said? That if I had his love, I would be able to have paradise?

“A myth!” she said. Suddenly her voice became stern. “Love of a man will not grant you Paradise. It is only that you will spend eternity with your spouse in paradise. Whomever that will be!”

Alara was dumbfounded.

“I learned this lesson long ago.” The sea witch lowered her robes, and Alara finally understood. She had never been a witch. She had merely isolated herself from the others, wearing flowing robes as the dervishes did above. A long time ago, she, too, had fallen under the charm of a human, and attempted to earn his heart through the sacrifice of herself. Now, she proposed trials to others who would visit her—when they were tests all along.

And Alara had failed hers.

I lost him. I lost everything.

“No, little Muslimah. You received the greatest gift of all.”

Alara could not fathom how.

“In this life…” the sea witch began. “There is only Allah. You were blessed to discover Him through another. Yes, it came with burden, but as He says—with hardship, there is many eases.’

She remembered that verse. Her heart began to ache, as she was sure that she had heard the prince recite it once.

“Dhul Qi’dah is not always about fighting a war with the world outside. It is about fighting a war within ourselves. The prince wanted a human woman just like him. You, on the other hand, wanted to grow. To learn something new, to become a better person. So who is really the loser?”

Alara sank her head. She wanted to say it was her, but she had not the courage. Her tail, instead, swished shyly below her. Embarrassment and shame flowed through her as air once did.

“Have you not noticed? You are no longer under the transformation. Take your voice, and take heed.”

The little Muslimah gasped, and felt her throat fill up once more. She cried out, and the sound even made the eyes of the sea witch brim. Alara was so elated that she thought she would start weeping.

But she remembered that underwater, there were not any tears that she could really shed. Just like Paradise. 

So the little Muslimah did not cry.

 

Related:

The Six Fasts – A Short Story

Short Story: Hijab, My Crown

The post The Little Muslimah – A Short Story appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Holding Onto Prophetic Etiquettes When Protesting: Encouragement And Advice For Muslim Human Rights Advocates

30 May, 2024 - 05:30

by Dawud Walid and Dr. Hatem El Haj

As Muslims committed to Islamic sacred law, we appreciate the sincere outpouring of concern among college students throughout the West who seek to put an immediate end to the genocide against our brothers and sisters in Gaza, as well as seek freedom for Palestinians from illegal occupation. Given that we are teachers of varying Islamic sciences and engage students and activists, we have some words of encouragement, plus sincere advice in staying true to prophetic etiquettes for Muslim advocates engaged in protests and university encampments as well as those non-college students who are considering raising awareness about the plight of Palestinians at upcoming Democratic and Republican conventions this summer.

Stay Hopeful of Divine Mercy and Assistance

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in Surah al-Baqarah, Ayah 214:

 

“Or do you think that you will enter Jannah while you have not yet been visited with difficult circumstances like those who passed on before you?  They were touched by hardship and suffering and were shaken until the Messenger and those who believed with him said ‘When with the assistance of Allah coming?’ Unquestionably, near is the assistance of Allah.”

Allah (Mighty and Sublime) who came to the aid of the Sahabah (may Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)be pleased with them) in times of great difficulty is fully aware of the suffering of the people of Gaza and is in full control. As Gazans continue to show resilience in the face of great calamity, we should remain hopeful of the promise of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and maintain gratitude for the relative ease that we are living in though we face issues such as police intimidation, doxing, and false media narratives. This hope does not mean that we should not be appalled by and grieving over the atrocities committed against our fellow believers and human beings, nor does it mean that we should fail in doing our utmost to stop this oppression. On the contrary, placing our trust in Him should empower us with the confidence and vigor to strive tirelessly, for we can never lose when working for His sake. However, this also means that our efforts must align with His pleasure, as we maintain full trust in His infinite power and boundless wisdom.

Perfect Justice is Reserved for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) in the Akhirah

Remember that as we all strive to see just outcomes for the struggle for justice for Palestinians in our lifetimes, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is the ultimate determiner of outcomes, and the manifestations of those come about based upon His Divine wisdom, not our temporal timelines.  We hope to see a liberated Palestine sooner rather than later, but know that on the Day of Judgement all criminals shall be held to account. No one is getting away with anything in the end.

Repentance is a Key to Success

          Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in Surah an-Nur, Ayah 31:

And repent to Allah together O you who believe in order that you obtain success.”

 Repentance or turning to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is a spiritual station with a beginning that has no ending until we depart from this world. To be successful in this life and the next, we must turn our hearts towards Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).  This begins with having remorse for the sins that we commit, negligence of what we have not fulfilled, and deficiency in not striving for excellence to improve in our endeavors. Repentance also involves seeking forgiveness and desisting from those matters which lead us into error and negligence. Beyond being mindful of sins that we could be committing including in the name of trying to bring about good, we should be keenly aware that our sins have a negative impact upon the Ummah; thus, while trials from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) may befall the best of His creations to elevate their ranks, relief from these trials should be sought through sincere repentance.  It is narrated that Ali bin Abi Talib raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) supplicated, “And forgive me of sins which bring calamity (al-Bala’) descend.”1

The first struggle for those involved in activism and community organizing as Muslims, therefore, should be in repentance, preferably awakening from sleep in the last third of the night prior to Fajr prayer. In general, seeking forgiveness throughout the day should be part of the daily spiritual program of activists. Our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “By Allah, Surely I seek forgiveness with Allah and repent to Him everyday more than seventy times.”2

Success Comes from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) not Merely Material Means

Ultimately, the ability to achieve success or tawfiq is directly connected to our obedience to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Therefore, it is incumbent that all activism and community organizing is congruent with the Qur’an and Sunnah. Created means or asbab should be pursued, but relying on them instead of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will ultimately lead to failure. Before deploying means or strategies, we believe that it is incumbent for activists before acting to consult qualified scholars or advanced students of knowledge for the purpose of striving for this congruency.  Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in Surah an-Nahl, Ayah 43:

“And We sent not before you except men to whom We revealed [Our message]. So, ask the people of scripture if you do not know.”

 Be Scrupulous Regarding Coalitions

Although we need to be in coalition with others out of necessity based upon current socio-political dynamics, we must be cautious not to reduce Islamic commitment to justice to the sensibilities of the “Progressive Left” and Neo-Marxists. We cannot control others’ language and means, but we do have control over ours.

Our aim should not be merely to gather large crowds at our events. We must exercise caution in offering platforms to those with differing agendas, ensuring that we do not carelessly support the promotion of what is reprehensible in our religion under the guise of “solidarity.” Moreover, we must exercise caution in joining actions or disruptions led and controlled by others with differing agendas.

No Crossing of Redlines that Violate Islamic Sacred Law and Prophetic Etiquettes

There are certain acts that we must be clear on that are redlines that should not be crossed which are sinful and/or can repel people of conscience from supporting Palestinians:

  • Any form of physical violence or blatant intimidation of persons who disagree with our position on Palestine. For instance, not going to university officials’ private homes where their families reside trying to enter those domiciles, nor scaring their children—an action inconceivable for any Muslim.
  • Destruction or vandalism of private or public property. For example, not spray-painting “Free Palestine” and “Long Live Intifada” on university buildings.
  • Using profanity in chants and slogans.
  • Disregarding Islamic teachings on modesty and gender interactions, which are binding on both Muslim men and women, and needlessly exposing Muslim women to the risk of being manhandled by officers or violated by antagonists.
  • Facilitation of “teach-ins” at encampments that promote or seek to normalize the forbidden. So-called “Pinkwashing teach-ins” which are staples of the sexual and gender confusion movement is an example.
  • Blocking highways and bridges in the name of disruption.
  • Hunger strikes in the name of “solidarity” with the people of Gaza who are deprived of food and water.

We have a religious obligation to assist our brothers and sisters in Gaza through spiritual means, monetary support, and socio-political means. There are forms of the latter from lobbying one’s elected officials to more passive means such as boycotting Israeli goods. While protests and encampments can be useful, we should exercise prudence to ensure that their benefits outweigh their potential harms. They should also not be mere outlets for venting frustrations but rather serve as launching pads for greater and long-term efforts.

As we have concern for the Ummah, we felt obligated to remind our beloved college students and others in the movement that our moral compass must be Islamic sacred law and our tone be guided by the etiquettes embodied by the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). We hope that this is received with a good opinion of the writers and that it is not dismissed as “moralizing” or “tone-policing” as morality and tone matter in our activism, especially when it comes to the ongoing genocide in Gaza.

And Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows best.

 

Related:

American Muslim Scholars Express Support For University Student Encampment Protests

Quranic Verses For Steadfastness For The Valiant Protesters On Campus

1    Ibn Abi Shaybah, Al-Musannaf fi Ahadith wa al-Athar, #295102    Al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, #6307

The post Holding Onto Prophetic Etiquettes When Protesting: Encouragement And Advice For Muslim Human Rights Advocates appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Commemorating The Nakba: Profiles In Palestinian Resistance

27 May, 2024 - 09:09

Anniversaries of the foundation of the Israeli state in May 1948 are usually marked with grief over the loss of Palestine and the slaughter and displacement of its people in favour of a supremacist ethnostate. On this anniversary (May 15, 2024), as Palestine faces perhaps its greatest and certain bloodiest challenge since then under an unrepentant Israeli genocide, we decided to recall some of the notable figures in early Palestinian history – people who resisted and confronted with body and soul, word and deed, the ethnonationalist Zionist movement and the British occupation behind it.

Background

Since capturing Palestine and much of the Fertile Crescent alongside France from the collapsing Ottoman sultanate, the British Empire had blatantly indulged the Zionist movement – an originally fringe ethnonationalist movement that sought to establish a Jewish ethnostate along European lines – at the expense of the largely Arab and mostly Muslim inhabitants, who had broadly lived in harmony with Christians and Jews for centuries. Both France, in Syria, and Britain, in Iraq and Palestine, faced repeated resistance during the thirty-year ‘mandate’ period between the World Wars. Often militancy from one region carried over to the others, since the colonial borders were not fully enforced: if today’s Palestinian resistance is a vanguard for a somnolent Muslim world as a whole, so too was it a vanguard for the colonised Middle East in the mandate period.

Then, as now with the United States, Zionist expansionism was blatantly indulged by the empire, which saw it as a solution to the mounting antisemitism in Europe and a civilizational outpost amid disdained Muslims. Riots over Jerusalem in 1929, for instance, saw Muslims and Arabs punished far more severely than Zionist Jews. Some Arabs, particularly elite families, tried to accommodate the mandates, but Palestinian resistance emerged and flourished largely among the peasantry and middle classes. The 1930s Palestinian revolt, occurring in tandem with political strikes in French-occupied Syria, had two trends: politicians tried, with little success, to negotiate their rights with regard to the Zionists generally favoured by Britain, while preachers and peasants fought in the field. Broadly speaking, early Palestinian resistance acquired a distinctly rural, populist, and religious flavour – it was then that the keffiyeh, the common head garb of the Palestinian countryside, became synonymized with resistance, as opposed to the fez favoured by the upper crust. Commanders often prefixed their names with “al-Mutawakkil al-Allah”, Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) dependent.

During the Second World War in 1941, the more internationally connected resistance joined an ill-fated, German-backed coup against the British-installed monarchy in Iraq: this was swiftly dispatched when Britain called in its Transjordanian Arab paramilitaries, which would later become the Jordanian army. Finally in the late 1940s came the infamous “Nakba” or calamity: this began with fierce conflict between Palestinian and other Arab militants on one hand and the now-massive Zionist militia on the other, and ended with the newly formed Israeli state routing half-hearted campaigns by newly independent Arab states. Blow for blow, it was militant groups rather than professional armies that acquitted themselves better, laying a platform for a Palestinian resistance that continues to put neighbouring states to shame. Here we will cover and introduce to an English-speaking audience some remarkable pioneers of Palestinian resistance.

Qassam’s Movement

An obvious starting point for any account of Palestinian resistance is the Islamic revivalist Izzuddin Qassam, whose pioneering social and military activity laid the grounds for resistance. A former Ottoman chaplain from the Levantine coast who had fought the Italians at Libya, Qassam had during the 1920s participated in the Syrian revolt against France before making his way to the Haifa region. In contrast to the Palestinian aristocracy, he organized chiefly in the countryside, mixing Islamic spirituality with feverish underground activity and collecting hundreds of volunteers dispersed in small cells throughout rural Palestine. Jerusalem was not simply a city, he liked to say, but as the first qibla and one of Islam’s holy cities a question of Islamic creed. Though Qassam did not survive to see the fruits of his labour – just months before the 1936 revolt broke out, he was killed at a cave by a British patrol – his followers formed the resistance’s nucleus, and he has since been respected across the Palestinian political spectrum.

Among Qassam’s lieutenants were the preacher Farhan Saadi, whom the British occupation accused of a litany of crimes but who was actually executed, by a military court, on the relatively innocuous charge of carrying a weapon. Saadi was eighty years of age and in the midst of a Ramadan fast when he was executed, and his death left a considerable impression. Attia Awad, another follower of Qassam, maintained Qassam’s front in northwest Palestine until he too was killed in a major battle near Jenin in the spring of 1938.

Perhaps the most formidable of Qassam’s lieutenants was Khalil Issa (Abu Ibrahim the Elder), who came closest among the generally decentralized resistance to a strategist and often flitted back and forth from Damascus. Unlike the more clement Qassam, he tried to eliminate traitors in the Palestinian ranks, earning him a ruthless reputation. This was emulated by Yusuf Abu-Durrah (Abul-Abed), a labourer from the highlands who replaced Awad and was known for trying collaborators. British propaganda leapt to vilify him, but Abu-Durrah’s court was locally reputed to be quite fair and his aide Yusuf Alam, an especially capable commander. Their main problem was their relations with the minority Druze at Mount Carmel, who leaked their whereabouts to the British army.

Gentlefolk and Adventurers

A contrasting approach to Qassam’s was that of the elite Hussaini family, who as provincial notables had been key players in the Ottoman government but also tried to politically represent the Palestinians under British rule, competing with the more accommodationist Nashashibis. The most notorious Hussaini scion was the ambitious mufti Amin Hussaini, who tried to wangle his local influence into becoming first an official and then a “shadow” ruler of Palestine, often resorting to cutthroat tactics and unsavoury alliances both as a politician and insurgent leader. The mufti’s best-known lieutenant, operating in Lydda, was Hasan Salameh (Abu Ali).

 former mufti of Jerusalem

Mohammed Amin al-Husseini – Former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (PC: Getty Images)

The mufti’s cousin Jerusalem mayor Musa Kazim was also a notable politician, and is believed to have been mortally wounded by British police leading a march in 1934. But it was Kazim’s gallant son Abdul-Qadir Musa Hussaini who enjoyed the most unambiguous esteem. Maintaining a dignified distance from internecine Palestinian squabbles, Abdul-Qadir cut his teeth fighting at Jerusalem, where he was seriously injured, in the autumn of 1936. Here he fought as second-in-command to Saeed As, the former military commander of the 1920s Syrian revolt, who was himself killed.

Saeed and Fawzi Qawuqji arrived from Syria with a storied reputation, to be welcomed by Palestinian politician-turned-commander Ibrahim Nisar. As former Ottoman soldiers, the trio had taken different paths: Qawuqji had loyally served the Ottomans till the end, but Saeed and Nisar had joined a British-backed Arab revolt. After the sultanate’s collapse, Saeed and Qawuqji fought for the shortlived Arab monarchy in Syria that was overrun by France and then led the Syrian revolt in the 1920s. Nisar then joined Palestinian politics before taking up arms and attacking Anabta in 1936. Qawuqji, a restless adventurer whose main focus was obtaining independence from colonialism, had meanwhile trained the nascent Saudi army before resurfacing – as a “known scallywag”, in the alarmed parlance of British authorities – in Palestine to assist the resistance there. In the autumn of 1936 Saeed and Qawuqji in battles near Tulkarm and Jerusalem respectively, but as “outsiders” their impact was limited: Saeed lost his life and Qawuqji, in particular, would be the victim of relentless slander by the mufti.

Palestinian Commanders

Apart from career soldiers, the Jerusalem front included Muhammad Ashmar, a conservative preacher from Damascus who had also fought against France. They also sent southward Abdul-Halim Shalaf (Abu Mansour), a descendant of the famed Islamic scholar Abdul-Qadir Gilani, who proved a particularly enterprising commander after replacing martyred field commander Issa Battat. In May 1938 Abdul-Halim raided his hometown Hebron, and the subsequent autumn he went so far as to capture Birsabaa, where he set up a small but well-organized garrison and a functioning Islamic court whose justice and efficiency were noted even by British travellers.

The most respected Palestinian leader of the revolt was farmer Abdul-Rahim Muhammad (Abu Kamal), another veteran of the Ottoman army who fought around Tulkarm. With an upright and pious reputation among friends and foes, he refused to eliminate the mufti’s rivals by famously noting that he fought not for the Hussainis but for the homeland. Somewhat of a contrast was his rival for military command, Arif Abdul-Raziq (Abu Faisal), a mufti loyalist who delighted in a cloak-and-dagger guerrilla organization and signed off his communiques as “Qassam’s ghost”. A shadowy but skilful commander, Arif’s most notable achievement was to seize control of Jerusalem’s Old City from under the British noses at the revolt’s peak. British troops, for their part, recognized his cunning in a shanty: “Arif had a little mare, its fleece as white as snow; and where that mare and Arif went, we’re jiggered if we know.”

Abdul-Rahim and Arif competed for military command, and in an attempt to reconcile them Muhammad Saleh (Abu Khaled), another of Qassam’s original followers, arranged a feast at his base near Yaffa. But he was killed when British planes bombarded the feast, and his family took up the gauntlet – first, his cousin Abdul-Fattah Mustafa, who was also killed by an airstrike, and then his brother Abdul-Rahman. Often it was local networks of family and friends that would keep what was still a very decentralized revolt ticking.

But with Britain beefing up its forces and gaining the support of both Palestinian collaborators like the Nashashibis and defecting commander Fakhri Abdul-Hadi – whose militias were euphemistically called “peace bands” – and Zionist militias, the revolt faded by 1939. Birsabaa was recaptured in the spring, and Abdul-Rahim was killed in the field: the British officer who led the attack, Geoffrey Morton, doffed his cap to his slain opponent and noted, “Abdul-Rahim had a special respect among his people, and among us.” Morton also noted with surprise the dignified fate of Abu-Durrah, who was captured, and his second-in-command Yusuf Alam killed, in the revolt’s last stage. Similarly to Farhan Saadi, and contrary to British propaganda that had dismissed him as a lowly butcher, Abu-Durrah went to the executioner’s block with cool sangfroid and the abiding respect of his people.

The Impact of the World War

By this point, the Second World War had broken out. The more internationally-minded Arab dissidents – including Mufti Amin, Fawzi Qawuqji, Khalil Issa, and Arif Abdul-Raziq – decamped to Germany, which they hoped would end the Anglo-French occupation. The principal German experiment was to back a 1941 coup led by rightwing Iraqi officers against the British-backed monarchy in Iraq – ironically the same monarchy that had been expelled from Syria by France twenty years earlier. Qawuqji and Amin’s nephew Abdul-Qadir rushed to support the Iraqi junta, but it was a wasted expedition: Britain’s Transjordanian paramilitaries attacked from the west, brushing aside Qawuqji’s frontline at the Rutba fort in Iraq, and recaptured Baghdad.

After the World War came the final, grisly episode of the British occupation: the Zionist takeover of Palestine. Pressured in part by a mixture of advocacy and terrorism but also in part by their own colonial blinkers, Britain had stoutly favoured the now massive and well-armed Zionist militias, whose own ruthless haste to expel the Arabs was given urgency by the recent Holocaust. In effect, the Holocaust forced the international community – now dominated by Britain, France, and the United States – to accommodate Zionism, making the Palestinians pay for European antisemitism.

Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni [PC: Wikipedia]

Palestinian, and broader Arab, participation was for its part quite makeshift: the mufti, as the most influential leader, was neck-deep in intrigue, not least against Qawuqji, who returned to lead the “Inqadh Army” that combined Arab officers with Palestinian militants. The lawyer Nimr Hawwari attempted to found an Arab youth militia, but this failed to take off. The mufti’s own force was led by his nephew Abdul-Qadir, who laid siege to Zionist-occupied west Jerusalem in the winter of 1947-48. Hasan Salameh attacked in the nearby Lydda region, and Abdul-Qadir’s lieutenant Kamel Iraiqat lay in ambush to cut off Jewish reinforcements to Jerusalem, presenting the Zionists with their stiffest challenge.

Eclipsed in the Nakba

But with supplies running low and Arab armies – then led by the ineffectual monarchy in Cairo and the outright British-backed Hashimi monarchies in Iraq and Jordan – failing to deliver expected replenishments, the siege could not last. In an outburst celebrated because it has epitomized Palestinian relations with Arab states since, Abdul-Qadir exploded in anger at the generals: they were traitors, he fumed, and he would return to the field for martyrdom. That is exactly what happened: he was killed at the Qastal fort outside the city. Amid widespread grief, the front collapsed despite the best efforts of his peasant lieutenant, Ibrahim Abu-Dayyah, whose serious and eventually mortal injuries left half his body paralyzed until his death.

Partly hemmed in by logistical and political difficulty and partly by his own well-meaning limitations, Qawuqji was unable to relieve the Palestinians, and by the summer of 1948, his front in northern Palestine had collapsed. Salameh was killed in the west, but as the war progressed, the experience of Palestinian troops was put to less and less use: Khalil Issa was given a subordinate role in the north, and in the south Abdul-Halim Shalaf similarly played second fiddle to the incoming Masri army. Some of this might stemmed from the sociopolitical disadvantages of otherwise capable Palestinian commanders – in Nazareth, for example, Issa’s former lieutenant Abdul-Ghaffar Ibrahim kept pressure on the Zionists, only to be betrayed by the city’s elite Fahoum family who resented his peasant forces.

The last effective militia on the Muslim side was the Ikhwan, an Islamist sociopolitical group founded by Hassan Banna in Masr. Abdul-Halim had met Banna and joined the group, the first of many Palestinians – right up to today’s Hamas – to link up with the Ikhwan. They were led by Sinai native Kamel Sharif and – by the admission of the Masri army expeditionary commander Fouad Sadek – played a valuable supporting role, often relieving besieged garrisons and making vanguard attacks. But with the politically feuding Arab states now involved in Palestine, they too played a subordinate role, and ultimately could not prevent the Nakba from befalling the Holy Land.

Legacy

In spite of their eventual defeat, the resistance in Palestine left a major impact: Palestinian identity has been as shaped by resistance to European and then Zionist colonialism as by anything else. Many of the Arab fighters in this article were eclipsed by a rising tide of Arab autocrats. Fawzi Qawuqji and Khalil Issa wrote accounts of the struggle. Kamel Sharif, who also wrote widely on Palestine and Islam, participated in the 1956 Suez war against his old enemies Britain, France, and Israel: like his namesake Iraiqat, Sharif also assumed a senior position in the Jordanian state. Muhammad Ashmar, strangely for such a historically conservative preacher, endorsed a candidate from the communist party in the 1954 Syria election on the apparent assumption that the Soviets were preferable to the West, but otherwise kept out of politics. Nimr Hawwari returned to law to represent dispossessed Palestinians. Abdul-Halim Shalaf and Abdul-Ghaffar Ibrahim lapsed into quiet retirement; while Arif Abdul-Raziq met an appropriately murky end, in Bulgaria of all places.

But by the late 1960s, Palestinian militancy was again on the upswing, and since then has surmounted enormous challenges to confront a massively stronger opponent in Israel. In some cases, there were direct links: Abdul-Qadir Hussaini’s son Faisal, Abdul-Rahim Muhammad’s son Jawad, Hasan Salameh’s son Ali, and Ibrahim Nassar’s grandson Tayeb Abdul-Rahim were notable Palestinian commanders. But more often it was the example of resistance that sparked the imagination, often in poetry: Fadwa Tuqan, for instance, recalls her fascination with the gallant adventurer Qawuqji, while Abdul-Karim Karmi mourns the martyred Farhan Saadi.

The example set by Palestinian resistance is best seen, however, in the character of Izzuddin Qassam. Successive generations of Palestinians across the political spectrum, from leftists like the Shaabia (Popular Front for Liberation) to Islamists like Hamas, have lauded the shadowy preacher whose urgent, restless revivalism lit the torch for generations of Palestinian fighters.

***

Further Reading:

Memories of Revolt: The 1936-1939 rebellion and the Palestinian national past, Ted Swedenburg. University of Arkansas Press, 1995.

Palestine in the Interwar Period: Between internationalization and revolution, Labeeb Bsoul. Lexington Books, 2023.

The Commander: Fawzi al-Qawuqji and the fight for Arab independence 1914-1948, Laila Parsons. Hillel and Wang, 2016.

***

 

Related:

Palestine in the Islamic Consciousness

Fourteen Centuries Since Badr: Recalling Islam’s First Decisive Battlefield – MuslimMatters.org

The post Commemorating The Nakba: Profiles In Palestinian Resistance appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Pro-Palestine Princeton Protesters Launch Hunger Strike

23 May, 2024 - 17:59
Crackdown on Academic Freedom, Says Protester

Persistent obstruction from their administration has forced pro-Palestine protesters at Princeton University to a hunger strike since early May 2024. Student protesters against Israel’s genocide of Gaza, and Princeton’s academic links to Israel, have faced repression, including two arrests and threats from the university’s highest levels, as part of a pattern of American universities cracking down on pro-Palestine activism in the past month.

Muslim Matters was able to contact the spokespeople of the Princeton Israeli Apartheid Divest movement, who explained the circumstances of the standoff and the persistent obstruction they have faced from a university that runs on its student funds. Student spokesperson David Chmielewski notes that the crackdown on Palestine activists is the climax of broader attempts to censor academic freedom: “Unfortunately it’s part of a broader sort of history, and broader present right now, of a crackdown on academic freedoms,” he says in an interview with Muslim Matters. “You’re seeing it across the country, where universities and schools are coming under more pressure for when they teach about race or when they teach about the history of colonialism, and also in, obviously, what Israel is doing in Gaza is destroying so many universities and destroying the entire educational infrastructure. So part of this sort of separate colonial project in both Israel and the United States is this attack on academic freedom.”

Princeton Responds Severely to Pro-Palestine Protests

Sameer RiazSameer Riaz, another spokesperson, explains that the university administration had repeatedly obstructed any dialogue with the protesters. Since October 2023, students have “been going through the appropriate channels, going to community meetings, trying to speak with administrators to get them to acknowledge that there’s a genocide happening, do something about it, and to start moving towards divestment so that our tuition money no longer goes towards funding this genocide.” This was flatly ignored, but students launched an encampment in late April 2024 as part of a nation-wide campaign against the genocide.

The response was severe. “At the launch of the encampment the university responded immediately with police force, they arrested two students right off the bat, basically before anything was even set up, and they prohibited the use of tents, they prohibited sleeping outside. And so following the establishment of the encampment the university continued to really ignore any attempt at compromise or discussion of divestment. There was really no attempt to reach out to us or figure out what it is that the students wanted.” The two students, Hassan Sayed and Achinthya Sialingam, were arrested on charges that were never made clear.

“Their Crackdown.. is Very Disproportionate”

Students protested the crackdown with a sit-in at the university’s Clio Hall, but president Christopher Eisgruber failed to heed their grievances and instead doubled down, running against longstanding university tradition. As Chmielewski notes, the university had seen longer sit-ins in the past without the same peremptory backlash: “What in part has become clear is that their crackdown on student protesters is very disproportionate to any other issue that’s arisen in campus history. For example there have been earlier sit-ins in 2015, in 2019, that…actually lasted for longer than the one at Clio Hall that were not actually met with police violence in the same way. Students involved in those situations did not face disciplinary charges in the same way that students involved in the Clio Hall sit-in were. So I think, you know, there seems to be a sort of nation-wide environment across these universities where they’re cracking down on pro-Palestinian speech especially.”

Once more, the university stonewalled any resolution, with its senior official for campus life Rochelle Calhoun going so far as to gaslight the protesters and falsely insinuate that they had been threatening. This prompted a backlash from faculty who had witnessed the events. Calhoun had “characterized the student protesters as threatening and aggressive toward the university staff. And the faculty observers who were present at the sit-in actually contradicted that account…they said actually this is not what happened, the way that she’s describing it is a mischaracterization, and it’s blatantly dishonest and it’s actually putting students in danger because it’s justifying police violence against them by saying that they’re aggressive, they’re threatening, characterizing the protesters as fundamentally unsafe.”

A letter calling for Calhoun’s resignation over this dangerous mischaracterization was signed by over two hundred faculty members, out of some five hundred faculty members in total, within a week.

Outside Harassment of Protesters Ignored by Administration

In spite of the unprecedented faculty support, the university administration has remained stubbornly obstructive. In contrast to some other universities where Zionist counterprotesters have targeted the protests, at Princeton, the rot has been largely at the top. “The main actual harassment we’ve been facing is by university administration as opposed to sort of outside counterprotesters,” Chmielewski observes.

Such harassment as has occurred has, however, been ignored by the administration: “Just the other day…two people came in and vandalized some signs, specifically the sign (that) said that we were hunger striking, and the university police and public safety office didn’t really step in and do anything. So, you know, it’s ironic that the university is often presenting, trying to present us as sort of outside agitators who are creating an unsafe environment, when actually it’s them who’s making us feel unsafe on campus.”

Crackdown on African-American Studies

Nor has this been the only underhanded tactic employed by the administration: “For example a lot of the faculty and students involved in the sit-in were students in the African-American Studies Department, and since then the African-American Studies Department has (come) under attack in national media and for a few days their [previously accessible] building was even locked to the public…So the university is really doing some outrageous things.”

He links this as a particularly extreme example of the sort of political pressures that have been brought to bear on critical narratives across American universities: “Unfortunately it’s part of a broader sort of history (and) present right now of a crackdown on academic freedoms. You’re seeing it across the country, (where) universities and schools are coming under more pressure for when they teach about race or when they teach about the history of colonialism.” He notes the link with Palestine, where Israel has utterly destroyed Gaza’s historically thriving, lively educational infrastructure: “Part of this separate colonial project in both Israel and in the United States is this attack on academic freedom.

Hunger Strike Inspired by Palestinian Political Prisoners Princeton University pro-Palestine hunger strikers

Princeton University pro-Palestine hunger strikers

“The idea of the hunger strike,” Riaz adds, “came from [a] longstanding position of Palestinian political prisoners (against) conditions that they’re facing in Israeli prison and generally protesting their own imprisonment. And it also has a longstanding tradition – the international movement, in the Indian independence movement, in the Ireland independence, independence movement…in America, even, during the movement to divest from the South Africa’s apartheid regime. So we’re drawing inspiration from all of these different facets.”

Another student spokesperson, Areeq Hasan, draws attention to the current tragedy in Palestine, where a famine has been practically enforced on the Palestinians in what Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant, speaking at the campaign’s beginning in October 2023, explicitly framed as a move to starve the populace. “People read stories (of) Palestinians making bread with animal feed, and also stories of people breaking their fast in Ramadan with grass…these stories never fade. These, you know, give us like the motivation to really empathize with the struggle of this man-made forced famine, and also just motivate our hunger strike in general.”

Pro-Palestine Protesters Condemn Anti-Semitism

Chmielewski is adamant against the widespread efforts to present the pro-Palestine protests as motivated by antisemitism. “Something we should make clear is that (a) movement for Palestinian liberation is for the liberation of all people. And everyone involved in this movement absolutely condemns anti-Semitism and on instances, you know, if there are any instances of anti-Semitism those will be called out by people within the movement. Crucially, there are a lot of Jewish students who are involved in our sort of community and it’s a very interfaith struggle…Just at our encampment here at Princeton, we’ve had Jummah and we’ve had regular prayers that happen in our encampment, and then also, they’ve had Sunday services for example where Christians offer prayers for the people of Palestine, and then also Jewish students have been hosting their own Shabath services at the encampment. So it’s a very interfaith struggle, and it’s one that is made up of people…who are seeking justice and are seeking to be on the side of morality and truth regardless of their religious, their ethnic, their racial background.”

A Shift in Global Consciousness

Princeton pro-Palestine protesters

Given the massive institutional bias toward Israel throughout the United States, can the protesters expect to make a real change? Riaz has no doubts. “Of course I’m hopeful that they’re going to make a change…but I actually sincere believe that they’ve already made a change. I think we’ve seen a massive shift…just in the global consciousness of what (has) been going on between the Israeli government and the Palestinians, how have they historically been oppressing them…they were taboo topics, and now they’ve been kind of brought forth into the mainstream…Obviously there’s still a lot of backlash and it’s a very tense issue…but it is much more mainstream than it used to be. I don’t think in any previous time we would have seen two hundred faculty signing onto a letter like this, you wouldn’t have seen faculty doing solidarity fasts with the people doing a hunger strike in solidarity with Palestinians, you wouldn’t see faculty writing a letter to the administration, you wouldn’t see (really) so many people being willing to, put themselves in support for the Palestinians, and so many people willing to express solidarity with them.”

Chmielewski believes that the protests have overnight affected Princeton’s culture. “Princeton kind of has a reputation of being a school that exists in like an ‘orange bubble’, that’s the phrase around it, people say that students here are sort of apolitical or apathetic, and that there’s not a lot of connection between what happens on campus and what happens in the broader world. But you know, what we’ve been doing here…shows that we’ve definitely sort of shattered the orange bubble, this idea that Princeton is not involved in what happens in the rest of the world. And we’re making more people wake up to the fact that their tuition money and their university is complicit in genocide. And that, I think, is a big victory, just to make people realize that, you know, what happens on this campus matters and that they can have a genuine sort of, that there’s potential for activism on this campus. That’s a big shift from just two weeks ago, where people sort of were thinking of Princeton as apolitical.”

Such a change is already, Chmielewski notes with satisfaction, making itself felt in campus life. “I think this speaks to a broader point, which is that all these encampments are also spaces that are revealing…the kind of world that we want to see after apartheid, after Palestinian liberation. We’re already building that world now.”

Related Posts:

American Muslim Scholars Express Support For University Student Encampment Protests

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The post Pro-Palestine Princeton Protesters Launch Hunger Strike appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Iran President Ebrahim Raisi’s Controversial Career Ends In A Helicopter Crash

22 May, 2024 - 00:53

Ibrahim Moiz

Iran has suffered a serious shock after an air crash killed its ruler Ebrahim Raisi and foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the highest-ranked Iranian leaders killed in decades. The crash, which occurred on a return trip from Azerbaijan, has forced Raisi`s second-in-command Mohammad Mokhber to replace him and prepare for a snap election. It marks the end of a tumultuous but energetic reign in which Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian sought to strengthen Iran`s ties with surrounding governments while maintaining a hostile posture toward Israel and the United States.

A Series of Unfortunate Events Former Iran President Ebrahim Raisi and the site of the helicopter crash.

Former Iran President Ebrahim Raisi and the site of the helicopter crash.

While shock deaths of political leaders, often via air crashes, were quite common through the twentieth century, revolutionary Iran has had more than its fair share. The year 1981, as the first Gulf war with Iraq was heating up, was particularly eventful with three consecutive months of senior deaths: in July defence minister Mostafa Chamran was killed in battle; in August president Ali Rajai and Javad Bahonar, who held the subsequently-scrapped prime minister’s post, were both assassinated allegedly by the dissident Mojahedin-e Khalgh organization; and in September an air crash killed leading military leaders – including defence minister Moussa Namjou, military commander Valiollah Falahi, airforce commander Javad Fakouri, and notable field commanders Youssef Kolahdoz and Ali Jahan-Ara.

Years after the war, army commander Sayad Shirazi was assassinated in 1999, and in early 2006 Ahmad Kazemi – founder and commander of Iran`s praetorian “Revolutionary Guard Corps” – was killed in a plane crash.

Perhaps the best-known case in recent years, of course, was the assassination by the United States of Ghassem Soleimani, the praetorian regional commander whose influence spanned, and directed Iranian policy toward, the entire region.

Raisi: a Long and Controversial Career

A senior magistrate before his long-expected victory at the 2021 election, Seyed Ebrahim Raisol-Sadati Raisi (2021-24) had been a controversial figure in Iranian politics. Born to a clerical family from the noted Shia city Mashhad, he studied law, but his exact clerical qualifications were always murky and a source of repeated conjecture. After the 1979 Iranian revolution brought in a hybrid regime – an officially democratic state far more inclusive than its monarchic predecessor, yet with enormous power invested in the clerical establishment – Raisi served as a prosecutor at several cities in turn.

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the Iranian Foreign Minister, who also died in the crash.

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the Iranian Foreign Minister, who also died in the crash.

With the revolutionary fervour of the day inflamed further by war and its rigours, Iran`s regime assumed an emergency posture and relied inordinately on several “hanging judges” to try suspected traitors, who were accused of waging war against Allah because they undermined the “Islamic revolution”. Raisi was one of these judges, and distinguished himself with his ferocity in prosecuting opponents of the revolution, a characteristic that brought him favour with Iran`s clerical leader Rohollah Khomenei.

The 1980s Gulf war ended in summer 1988 after one final surge from the exiled Mojahedin-e-Khalgh group backed by Iraq. In its aftermath, the Iranian regime set about purging thousands of opponents, with mass executions of several thousand political prisoners across the land. These provoked the disgust of Khomenei`s heir-apparent Hossein Montazeri, who accused Raisi and a handful of other magistrates as having played a key role. Having been at Khomenei`s right hand for a decade, Montazeri resigned and was replaced with military specialist Ali Khamenei, who then went on to succeed Khomenei a few months later and has remained the eminence grise of Iran`s regime since.

A Regional Shift

Hassan Rouhani, who defeated Ebrahimi in 2017.

Over the years Raisi climbed the Iranian judicial ladder, eventually rising to its apex court and becoming first prosecutor-general and then chief justice. In the 2017 election he challenged, and lost to, incumbent Hassan Rouhani (2013-21), another military cleric who had been attempting to secure Iranian interests by a rapprochement with the United States. Khamenei and Raisi, for their part, believed that such a reconciliation would backfire. Their views hardened when American ruler Donald Trump scrapped the 2015 Vienna Accord over Iranian nuclear facilities that Rouhani had stitched together.

American and European observers often characterize Iranian politics as split between “moderates” open to rapprochement with the “West”, and “hardliners” who oppose it. This is a severe oversimplification: even the consummate “hardliner” Khamenei, for instance, was not averse to tacitly helping the United States when he felt it served Iranian interests, such as the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and of Iran`s old enemy Iraq in 2003. A frequently labelled “hardliner”, Rouhani`s populist predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-13), would go on to castigate the 2021 election that Raisi won. Indeed, Raisi won that election against another oft-identified “hardliner”, the praetorian corps` founder Mohsen Rezai.

What distinguished Raisi`s subsequent regime from other “hardliners” such as Rezai was its focus on rapprochement with Iran`s neighbours: where Soleimani and Rezai had opted to aggressively confront countries such as Tehran`s archrival Saudi Arabia, Iran under Raisi`s rule made diplomatic outreaches to these countries. In cases such as the Taliban regime, which swept to power in Afghanistan at the same point as Raisi in late summer 2021, historical frictions were contained. China helped broker a developing reconciliation with Saudi Arabia, with the hope of weaning Riyadh off its traditional American dependency.

Key to these efforts was the clever foreign minister and career diplomat Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. Like preceding diplomats, he had the cushion of Iran`s various militias in the region to exercise as leverage, but unlike them he maintained officially correct cordial links with surrounding regimes, often covering or containing otherwise traditionally provocative actions.

As a result, Iranian diplomacy was far more effective than it had been in the late 2010s. While Tehran maintained a hostile position toward Israel and the United States, Amir-Abdollahian was careful not to bite off more than he could chew: thus when Israel, seeking to escalate its genocide on Palestine into a regional war, attacked the Iranian embassy in Damascus, Amir-Abdollahian carefully choreographed Tehran`s military response to make a point rather than take the bait.

Now What?

With Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian`s deaths, the presidency moves in an interim capacity to Mokhber until the snap election. The fact that much of the Iranian state apparatus answers, directly or otherwise, to Khamenei means that Raisi`s removal does not necessarily entail a shift in the substance of Iranian policy. The pathway to how Tehran attempts to realize its aims, however, might indeed change – which might make neighbouring regimes quite nervous.

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The post Iran President Ebrahim Raisi’s Controversial Career Ends In A Helicopter Crash appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Navigating Healthcare In The US: A Muslim’s Guide To Advocacy

21 May, 2024 - 09:14

My sister died from healthcare negligence. Here’s what I learned.

My sister had died due to negligence in a hospital in the US. In her full niqab and while pregnant, my sister was neglected in several ways that led to the loss of both her and her child. It was one of the saddest days of my life.

She was only recently married and we were all excited, days away from seeing our family’s first grandchild. However, despite her cheerful nature, beautiful personality, high education, and abundant generosity, she endured several negligent care provider decisions that led to the death of her and her unborn child. Decisions that could have been easily avoided.

The tragedy of losing my sister was mired by the discrimination that our family felt. Her death and the loss of her unborn child marked one of the most difficult periods of my life and sent me on my own difficult journey in my youth. My experience in non-Muslim environments where Islamophobia can brim just beneath the surface, has taught me valuable lessons on how to navigate the healthcare systems of the West and call for proactive advocacy for Muslims. I hope the following points help anyone fearing such discrimination.

Understanding the Challenge

For many Muslims, the healthcare environment can be fraught with the potential for bias, misunderstanding, and discrimination. Whether it’s due to visible symbols of faith like the hijab or niqab, or simply the cultural nuances that accompany our interactions, the impact on the quality of care and the dignity afforded to us can be profound. It’s essential that we, as a community, understand how to advocate effectively for ourselves and our loved ones, maintaining our moral agency and ensuring our rights are respected, especially during critical times of emergencies.

Here are some expanded strategies to help our communities step confidently into these often intimidating settings, ensuring that we can advocate for ourselves and our families effectively, and overcome biases.

  1. Ask the Right Questions

Engage actively with healthcare providers by asking detailed and far-reaching questions about treatments, preventative measures, and all possible outcomes. This not only demonstrates that you are intelligent and involved in the care process, but also establishes a precedent of accountability. Your questions should be persistent yet respectful, showcasing a professionalism that demands attention but also respects the expertise of the staff so as not to alienate them further.

  1. Learn to Speak Legalese

It’s crucial to convey an understanding of the legal implications of healthcare decisions.

Remember that Muslims navigate the world with Taqwa. We fear Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), while a non-Muslim typically fears liability. Healthcare professionals generally operate within a framework of liability; showing that you are knowledgeable about legal consequences can ensure more meticulous attention to the care provided. Familiarize yourself with relevant healthcare laws and patient rights. Do not hesitate to mention that you are documenting interactions and care processes, as this can often prompt more diligent responses.

  1. Smile, it’s Sunnah!

Maintain a positive demeanor! A smile can be a powerful social signal in disarming potentially defensive or biased healthcare staff. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) reminded us of the virtues of smiling, and patience in challenging circumstances. Use kindness and a positive demeanor as your driving energy in your interactions. This approach does not diminish the seriousness with which you treat the care of your loved ones; rather, it opens channels for more humane and considerate interaction.

  1. Know Provider Biases

Oftentimes, care providers demonstrate biases that are arguably rampant in the West where exorbitant educational loans required to attain medical degrees can lead to slanted decisions that are financially beneficial for doctors and hospitals, but may not necessarily prioritize or encompass patient needs.

Navigating healthcare

Navigating healthcare [PC: Towfiqu Barbhuiya (unsplash)]

For instance, more typically, a patient may require only simple preventative care and advice, whereas in the fee-for-service and value-based care models, patients can receive unneeded prescriptions and services that aren’t necessarily harmful, but at least maximize hospital revenue. In another example, in specialized care units, empty patient beds do not guarantee hospital income—meaning doctors and hospital administrators may decide to keep a patient in their care, to try their best, deciding to not transfer a patient to a better-equipped hospital where more crucial care instruments may be available to maximize care.

  1. Seek out Advocates

Patient advocacy networks are usually in place to help patients in decision-making.

Many hospitals offer Patient Advocacy services. Engaging with these advocates can provide an additional layer of support and oversight, particularly useful in navigating complex and stressful situations. Ask information desks about patient advocacy services and the role of patient advocates in assisting with navigating the healthcare system, including how to find advocates who are sensitive to or share the patient’s cultural and religious concerns.

It doesn’t hurt to get acquainted with hospital administrators either. Ask information desks about escalation pathways, what the accepted channels are, and how to reach administrators, especially in crucial emergency and intensive care matters.

  1. Tap into Local Community Support Systems

Leverage the support of local Muslim communities and religious organizations which often have resources and experience in dealing with similar situations. They can provide both emotional support and practical advice. Community leaders typically have contact with lawyers, doctors, and other impactful members who can give advice or further aid you in your critical situation. Hospitals also can have Muslim Chaplain services that can further your advocacy needs. In a robust and diverse Muslim community, no one must suffer their crises alone.

Remember that as famously generous as Muslims are in charitable causes, they too can be generous to individual community members, even if you have little reach or acquaintance with leaders or members. Feel free to contact an Imam with regard to your situation; you never know what help or solutions can come about. You can also look for legal support in dire situations from Muslim Advocacy Law Groups such as the Council for American Islamic Relations.

 

In conclusion, while the challenges are real and sometimes daunting, there is much that can be done to ensure that as Muslims, our interactions with the healthcare system are dignified, respectful, and just. By employing strategic advocacy, building robust support networks, and maintaining our composure and kindness, we can protect our rights and those of our loved ones effectively. In doing so, we uphold not only our individual dignity but also contribute to the broader struggle for fair and just healthcare.

InshaAllah, this guide serves as a beacon, empowering you to navigate these turbulent waters with confidence and faith. May it help you, and anyone else who might find themselves in similar circumstances. Ameen.

[Legal Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article. The content in this article does not purport to offer legal or medical advice. We do not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned in this article. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.]

 

Related:

Access to Healthcare is a Muslim Issue

Black Muslimah In Scrubs: A View From The ICU Ward

The post Navigating Healthcare In The US: A Muslim’s Guide To Advocacy appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

An Interfaith Trojan Horse: Faithwashing Apartheid and Occupation

19 May, 2024 - 11:00

Editor’s Note: This article was originally written in 2014 for the Islamic Monthly, and has been republished with permission from the author.

Interfaith work has the potential to create and sustain profound relationships across religions. 

But what happens when interfaith work becomes a trojan horse?

In this piece I explore the Muslim Leadership Initiative, a program which sends American Muslims leaders to Israel to study Judaism and Zionism and is funded by the Shalom Hartman Institute, a Zionist and anti-BDS organization.  I’ve broken down the narrative into five parts – the actual critique and deconstruction of the institute and program are towards the later part of the article.

The Background

Last week, Rabia Chaudry – a National Security fellow at the  Truman National Security Project and New America Foundation – published a piece on TIME magazine’s website, entitled “What an American Muslim Learned From Zionists“. In the article, Rabia reveals that two cohorts of young American Muslim leaders -their identities kept hidden because of the “risk” – over the past year have gone to Israel as part of an ‘interfaith’ program, called the Muslim Leadership Initiative (MLI), organized by Duke Muslim Chaplain Imam Abdullah Antepli and Trinity College Assistant Professor of Religion Homayra Ziad; it was funded by the Jerusalem-based Shalom Hartman Institute (SHI).

Chaudry’s piece was a follow up to a June 4th article written on her Patheos blog, which discussed the difficulty she, personally, faced in making the decision to accept the invitation. This was not, however, the first time Chaudry had discussed the trip. On November 17th, 2013, Chaudry gave a talk on her first of two trips to Israel, through the Shalom Hartman Institute, at Silver Spring’s Muslim Community Center. In the talk, she also mentioned that the participants reached out other Muslim American leaders and even shayukh  – who encouraged the trip. Up until last week’s TIME article, however, the institute behind the program had been left unnamed and other participants in the program have yet to be revealed (save those who have voiced their participation vis a vis social media).

The TIME article reduces the occupation to the displacement of “dialogue” and “both sides” (unsure if Chaudry means Palestinians and Israelis or Muslims and Jews) being unwilling to speak outside “their own bubbles”. Muslims, it essentially argues, misunderstand Zionism and thus misunderstand Jews and Israel. Therefore, to have healthy and holistic interfaith dialogue back in the United States, American Muslims must understand what Zionism means to Jews and what Israel means to Jews. At the  midway point of her piece, Chaudry even explains how  it was only after she finally met Palestinians, during her trip, that she understood that the “fear many Israeli Jews have [of ending the occupation] is not a figment of [their] imagination” as “the pressure cooker cannot hold indefinitely.”

Chaudry followed up her article – which elicited, albeit relatively isolated, an uproar of condemnation from many Palestinian Americans on Twitter as well as voices of support from other groups elsewhere on social media – with another, responding to criticisms about the Shalom Hartman Institute’s program and the participation of Muslim American ‘leaders.’ This blog post was, too, filled with deeply problematic and logically unsound arguments (see: ‘don’t single Israel out’, equivocating ‘jihad’ and Zionism; claiming not to speak for Palestinians while, actually, doing that with both words and actions). Additionally, it even mentioned that it was key to enable Muslim leaders “to use the language of Zionism to remind Jews of the ethical and moral callings of their faith.”

Because Muslims have a responsibility to make Judaism  inseparable from Zionism and tell believing and non-believing Jews what’s theologically up?

Criticisms of the articles themselves aside, the majority of the social media criticism was directed towards the existence of the program itself; the fact that Muslim American leaders would consider breaking, in effect, BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) by being sponsored, supported and funded by a Zionist institution seemed to knock the wind out of many. The inclusion of participants such as Wajahat Ali and Haroon Moghul – two well-respected and prolific Muslim names in US media – as opposed to the usual fringe-esque names we may be used to, set off a scurry of alarms and a tide of confusion.

What’s going on?

Speaking to the Man Behind the Curtain

To those who know him Imam Abdullah Antepli, the visionary behind the Muslim Leadership Initiative, is a a “beautiful man” with a passion for interfaith dialogue. In February of this past year, his interfaith efforts at Duke were featured in a Haaretz article chronicling the growing challenges of interfaith dialogue on US campuses with the growth of student-led BDS movements. I had the opportunity to speak with Imam Antepli last Thursday; like many others who had caught wind of the program and trip, I was livid, saddened and at a loss for words to see what I and so many others felt was a normalization of Zionism and Israel within our community through some of our most well regarded public leaders.

In our conversation, Imam Antepli stressed that the purpose of the program was to educate Muslim American leaders – those at the forefront of being in touch with young Muslims especially – about Judaism so as to better approach the question of Zionism and Israel that is otherwise made into the elephant in any and all interfaith dialogue between Jews and Muslims. This was, he said, just a pilot run of the program; he, along with the participants and the Hartman Institute were unsure of what exactly to expect from one another and from the experience. Nevertheless, Imam Antepli trusted the Shalom Hartman Institute, which he had visited for three years straight prior as a participant at the institute’s multifaith, interdisciplinary International Theological Conference (ITC). The program consisted of curriculum by the Hartman institute, of which the majority was originally created for American Rabbis.

The institute, founded by American Progressive Orthodox Rabbi Dr. David Hartman, is dedicated to being “a center of transformative thinking and teaching that addresses the major challenges” faced by the world’s Jewry. Following a progressive Orthodox Judaism, the institute also promotes Jewish pluralism, both for religious and secular Jews, and multi-faith conversation (e.g. ITC). In particular, it is also interested in looking at the relationship that diaspora Jews have with Israel.

Because of Imam Antepli’s own experience with the institute and belief in its principles and the sort of space it has cultivated for itself within the American Jewish community as well, he felt that the institute would be best suited to house the program. The line, for him, would be groups like the ADL and AIPAC.

He admitted, however, that there were shortcomings – most glaringly (and a central criticism waged against the program) the absence of Palestinian and Arab-Americans from the cohorts. Imam Antepli explained that in the original cohorts, there were a few Arab-Americans poised to go on the trip, but due to logistics and unforeseen events they had to leave, leading the cohorts consisting primarily of South Asians, a few Turks and one Black American. When I asked him the selection process for the MLI participants, he emphasized repeatedly that his goal was to have the proportional representations of members of the American Muslim community present in the program. Thus, because there are more South Asian Muslims than Arab American Muslims there would be more South Asian Muslims present in the program. Additionally, he continued, it was of dire importance to him that the participants be half men and half women – this was something he was completely unwilling, he said, to compromise on. In addition to these representations, Imam Antepli stated that he wished that there had been a more pluralistic Muslim representation, as all those who went on the trip were representatives of the Sunni community.

The Imam also explained how he had plans for a JLI – Jewish Leadership Initiative – which would bring Israeli Jewish leaders to the United States to speak with American Muslims and learn about Islam. This would be, of course, a plan for the distant future as opposed to anything in the next near while.

When I pushed about the crossing of the BDS line by this program, the answers seemed to be less than satisfactory. Imam Antepli did not deny the deplorable conditions of the Palestinian people or the ‘disgusting’ nature of segregated Israeli society; he minced no words in condemning the occupation and treatment of Palestinians as well as the Israeli attitudes towards both. Yet on BDS, he provided anecdotes of how during his conversations with Palestinians while they agreed with the importance and strength of BDS they also believed in the importance of Muslims, from around the world, coming to see for themselves the occupation.

Faithwashing Apartheid and Occupation

It is hard to ignore the obvious; it is hard to ignore that despite whatever good intentions and explanations there were and will be, a group of Muslim American leaders – many in the very public eye and with a great deal of social authority – went to Jerusalem through a program, albeit organized by an Imam, funded and supported by an institution that is unabashedly Zionist. That a group of Muslim American leaders traveled to Israel to learn about what ‘Zionism means to Jews’ to better understand Jewish connection to Israel and thus bridges, interfaith, dialogue and other such nouns.

And yet nothing about this is, unfortunately, surprising.

One of the most common tactics of Zionist lobby groups and organizations has been sanitizing the occupation and apartheid and displacing the actual cause and reason for the conflict. Zionist groups have courted Black college students and Latino leaders (with pushback), for instance, in an attempt to, as independent journalist Rania Khalek describes it, “neutralize the brown electorate.” She explains how in an attempt to thwart identification or solidarity Latino, Asian and Black Americans may have with the Palestinian struggle there is a necessity to, quoting former US Ambassador to the European Union Stuart Eizenstat, show how the conflict “..“is not a civil rights issue. It’s rather a very different conflict in which violence is being used and Israel’s right to be a state is questioned.”

This is, in its essence, what washing the occupation and apartheid clean actually is: to sanitize the narrative in which the oppressor becomes the oppressed or, at the very least, a relatable oppressor.

And this where what I will refer to as ‘Faithwashing’ comes in. Faithwashing is about changing the cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (or, rather, Israeli occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine) from a mid-20th century Euro-American settler-colonialist project (that brought anti-semitism to the Muslim world) to a non-existent centuries long enmity between Jews and Muslims.

Using religion to whitewash Israeli crimes and dilute the occupation is nothing new. It’s relatively well known that Christian (Evangelical and others) often travel to Israel to visit holy sites as well as pledge support for the state of Israel – although not really in the interest of the world’s Jewry. What’s not as well known is that these trips are often, albeit not always, funded by Zionist groups interested in propping up support for Zionism and Israeli policies.

Now it seems that the attention has been turned towards mainstream Muslim American leaders who are anti-Islamophobia activists and well regarded within their communities. In the case of MLI – it seems as though good intentions have been turned into an opportunity for a liberal Zionist educational institution – Shalom Hartman Institute – to further its anti-BDS agenda.

The decision by these community members and leaders to go to Israel vis a vis a Zionist, anti-BDS institution is incredibly shameful and dangerous. Good intentions matter, but actions make the real difference. The bottom line becomes that this program should not have happened and should not continue as it undercuts the plight of Palestinians and normalizes Zionism – a racist ideology and institution that is antithetical to our own Islamic traditions of social justice –  within our communities.

BDS matters. Ignoring BDS is Ignoring Palestinians.

In 2005, Palestinian civil society released a statement making a call for the international community to commit to the Boycotting, Divesting and Sanctioning of Israel (similar to the one issued against Apartheid South Africa) until it complied with international law. Part of supporting BDS, beyond divestment from corporations and groups that directly exploit the occupation and Palestinians, is not enabling the very institutions that both directly and indirectly support the occupation, the status quo; that support Zionism, a secular ideology that co-opted religious narratives for nationalist aims, propagated by European colonial officers who supported the export of the so-called ‘Jewish problem’.

When an individual, who claims to be committed to the Palestinian Cause™, makes the decision to be associated with and use the support of a Zionist organization – however good the cause – they are, without any grey, breaking the BDS line and are normalizing Zionism. And there should be no mistake about what Zionism is and what it isn’t.

The Shalom Hartman Institute is actively dedicated to and engaged in anti-BDS campaigns.
It is hard to imagine that not a single participant in the MLI checked out the Shalom Hartman Institute’s website before accepting the invitation to the program. It only takes a few minutes to discover some alarming facts and associations – facts and associations that point to an institute that is actively engaged in fighting BDS on campuses and faithwashing the existing and emerging narratives on Israel.*

In 2010, SHI launched the ”Engaging Israel Project” or, IEngage – a project which has partnered with AIPAC. The goal of the project “is to respond to growing feelings of disenchantment and disinterest toward Israel among an ever-increasing number of Jews worldwide by creating a new narrative regarding the significance of Israel for Jewish life.” It does this by  “addressing core questions pertaining to the necessity and significance of the Jewish national enterprise; how a Jewish state should exercise power; why a Jew who lives outside of Israel should care about Israel; and what the State of Israel can offer the world.”

In other, less euphemistic words: IEngage is about saving Zionism and ensuring Israel’s support, as a Jewish state, both at home and abroad.

One of IEngage’s faculty is McGill Professor of History, Gil Troy who has been at the forefront of fighting BDS. In 2009, he and Dr. Mitchell Bard presented a position paper at the  Working Group on Delegitimization at the Global Forum against Anti-Semitism (seriously, click that link and read it). Tasked with the responsibility to “respond” to the challenges that would arise from the growing BDS movement, they emphasized that the fight against BDS was an “educational one” and outlined a three-pronged vision for fighting BDS:

  1. Israel Being a Cause to Celebrate
  2. Humanize Israel
  3. Driving a Wedge between Soft Critics and Hard Delegitimizers

The Hartman website  even features an article highlighting Troy’s efforts to fight BDS on campus, in which he said to have said “the Shalom Hartman Institute iEngage Project has been working for four years to shift the negative and doctrinaire conversation about Israel toward one that is constructive, thoughtful, and educational.” SHI president Rabbi Donniel Hartman is also quoted in the article in emphasizing how the campaign against BDS must be a campaign of ideas. Elsewhere on the website, Rabbi Hartman also discusses how BDS is “repulsive” and that it must be, once again, defeated through ideas, education  and, essentially, reclaiming Zionism amongst the world Jewry.

A key program of the IEngage project is the CLI: Christian Leadership Initiative, which preceded the Muslim

Leadership Initiative. The program, however, was not initiated by SHI but, rather, AJC – the Global Jewish Advocacy group that is also unabashedly and openly committed to fighting BDS. In May of this past year, the AJC discussed on its website that in an attempt to thwart any American Christian movement away from  supporting Israel it had established the CLI in a partnership with SHI.

CLI is a mirror program of the MLI – beyond just sharing a name. In fact, the description of the MLI program (co-directed by Yossi Klein HaLevi, who is a former follower of Meir Kahane and member of the JDL) on the SHI website makes it abundantly clear that the purpose of the program is not to teach Muslim leaders about Judaism (at least solely) but to educate them on Zionism and the centrality of Israel to the world’s Jewry. The curriculum for the Muslim leaders was, in fact, entitled “Encountering Israel: Independence, Peoplehood, and Power.”

Until Saturday, SHI’s 2013 Annual Report included the MLI under the IEngage project. When I brought this concern up with Imam Abdullah Antepli, he said that the MLI was not a part of the IEngage project and that he would, immediately, speak with SHI staff to have it removed. And within less that twenty-four hours, it was.

Thank goodness for printscreen:

While Imam Antepli was adamant that MLI had nothing to do with the IEngage project, it is incredibly telling that it is modeled after AJC’s Christian Leadership Initiative and that SHI included it under its IEngage project section in its 2013 annual report.

Is this a matter of thirteen months of miscommunication?

The program description in the annual report also reiterates – contrary to the claims of those who participated – that the interfaith initiative “is not a dialogue” but rather to help “Muslims to experience how Jews understand Israel and themselves.”And, perhaps most tellingly, also claims that it aims to “change attitudes in the North American Muslim community and in Muslim-Jewish discourse in communities and on campuses across North America.”

Emphasis added. 

The Shalom Hartman Institute’s interests lie not in fostering better Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations for the sake of interfaith, but rather in fostering relationships with key leaders within these communities – specifically in the United States – who have access to the youth in their communities and can help normalize Zionism, legitimize Israel and thus delegitimize BDS.

The Need to Reject The Zionist Narrative

There are more questions than answers.

One of the first things that struck me about the program, after I learned that it was associated and funded by the Shalom Hartman Institute, was that there actually isn’t any reason for Muslim American leaders to travel to Israel to study Judaism for the sake of interfaith. Was there really a dearth of resources in the United States? Or are Rabbinical studies only possible in Israel? Just as Qur’anic studies would only be possible in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, India, Jordan? Morocco has one of the most vibrant Jewish communities in the world; why not go there, where interfaith between Muslims and Jews isn’t obstructed by apartheid walls and laws? Not only would it not cross the BDS line but it would also shift the focus from Ashkenazi-centric Jewish narratives to Sephardic.

Does it make sense for American Muslim leaders to work with an institution where, by the participants own admittance, the instructors claimed they had never interacted with Muslims despite living in a country where the majority within a decade or so will be Muslim? Does it make sense to speak of bringing Israeli Jewish leaders to the US to learn about Islam when their neighbours are, in fact, Muslim?

And are we now accepting, after years of rejecting, the equivalence of Judaism and Zionism? Are we actually sidelining anti-Zionist Jewish voices that reject the modern state of Israel as an integral part of Judaism, of their Jewishness (secular or religious)? Where do we get the authority to do that? 

Palestine is central to the hearts of Muslims all around the world, but that does not mean we try to re-write the narrative of the occupation on our own terms. There is a real need for interfaith understanding and work between Jews and Muslims and if Israel is a part of that work, then so be it. But we must not, in the process, allow ourselves, our communities and our leaders to be on the wrong sides of history and justice by normalizing and accepting what was and remains unjust.  

Right now is a critical moment for our communities to have an actual conversation – not a shouting match. There are concerted efforts to drive wedges between members of communities that may and do stand up against Zionism and the oppression of Palestinians. I earnestly hope we do not allow those efforts to succeed and I encourage others to write responses and engage on this topic. Let’s keep the conversation going.

*An important note: the Chair of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America is Angelica Berrie, who is the president of the Russell Berrie Foundation. In a 2011 report for ThinkProgress entitled Fear Inc., MLI participant Wajahat Ali revealed a network of organizations creating and feeding the Islamophobia industry in the United States. Amongst the foundations mentioned, the Russell Berrie Foundation was, too, included. According to the report, the foundation “contributed $3,109,016 between 2001 and 2009 to organizations engaging in anti-Muslim work”. Some of the anti-Muslim groups who received funding included “Counterterrorism & Security Education and Research Foundation, receiving $2,736,000; the Investigative Project on Terrorism ($100,000); and the Middle East Forum ($273,016.22).”

Related:

Then The Sea Split: Reflections On The Story Of Prophet Musa, Gaza, And Hope

The post An Interfaith Trojan Horse: Faithwashing Apartheid and Occupation appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Whispers Of Gratitude: Which Of The Blessings Of Your Lord Will You Deny?

17 May, 2024 - 15:04

A cascade of sunlight flooded in as I pulled back the blinds. The sun’s gentle caress felt like a comforting break. The vibrant, “pretty in pink” color of bougainvillea flowers in our front yard peeking through the window creates a cheerful scene contrasting with the cold weather and breathes a sigh of relief. After months of being around people, I found solace in my room filled with amber hues, which held a stillness that resonated with my introverted nature. Busy crowds and the noise of life often leave me feeling drained, and reflecting is my usual way to recharge.

There are times when we need to slow down, reflect, and find ways to be grateful in our busy world. This is to prevent drifting through life without purpose. That search may seem more difficult when things get rough. We often look for peace and solitude and guidance from different sources when we need to make sense of it all. The Quran, a divine revelation, serves as a source of wisdom and a universal guide for humanity, offering deep insight and comfort to help us stay grounded and focused through life’s ups and downs. 

Aside from its religious significance, several scientific studies have shown the potential health benefits associated with the Quran recitation. The holistic impact of the Quran on individuals is evident. As stated in the Quran,

“And if We had made it a non-Arabic Qur’an, they would have said, “Why are its verses not explained in detail [in our language]? Is it a foreign [recitation] and an Arab [messenger]?” Say, “It is, for those who believe, a guidance and cure.” And those who do not believe – in their ears is deafness, and it is upon them blindness. Those are being called from a distant place.” [Surah Fussilat: 41;44] 

The oft-repeated ayah (verse) in Surah Ar-Rahman echoed in my mind: “Which of the blessings of your Lord will you deny?” This question had settled deep within my head, patiently waiting for moments like these – when the world faded away, and introspection took over.

In this solitude, I reflected on many blessings that are sometimes forgotten in the rush of existence. With my hands cupped around the steaming cup of native coffee, I inhaled its delightful aroma. The soft glow of the sun shining through my favorite book, makes the words look beautiful.

Each breath: a gift. Each heartbeat: a reminder.

فَبِأَيِّ آلَاءِ رَبِّكُمَا تُكَذِّبَانِ

“Which of the favors of your Lord will either of you deny?” is a verse in the 55th chapter of Surah Ar-Rahman of the Quran. It is a rhetorical question repeated 31 times posed both to humanity and Jinn, asking us to reflect on the countless blessings and signs of Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Mercy and Power that are evident all around us. The repetition of the verse is a reminder to continually evaluate our gratitude towards the Creator’s favors.

Nur Ghanim Qadduri al-Hamad analyzes various scholars’ views on the Qur’an’s repetitive elements in “The Purposes of Repetition in the Qur’an According to the Risale-i.” Some excerpts from his paper:

Ibn Qutayba explains that the verse “Then which of the favors of your Sustainer will you deny?” is repeated in the Quran to make believers reflect on and remember the many blessings God has given them. By placing this verse amidst the recounting of His bounties, it serves as a reminder of God’s generosity and power, ensuring that the significance of these gifts remains firmly in the minds of the readers (Ibn Qutayba, Ta’wil Mushkil al-Qur’an, p. 239).

Many scholars have suggested various reasons for the repetition 31 times of the verse, “Then which of the favors of your Sustainer will you deny?” (See, al-Khatib al-Iskafi, Durrat al-Tanzil, 463; al-Kirmani, Asrar al-Takrar fi’l-Qur’an, 198; al-Nasafi, Madarik al-Tanzil, iv, 214.) 

However, Fakh al-Din al-Razi (d. 604H) says that such interpretations are based on nothing authentic. He points out these repetitions are revelations, and man cannot penetrate their mysteries with his mind. It is best therefore for man not to make exaggerated interpretations of God’s Word. (al-Fakhr al-Razi, Muhammad ibn ‘Umar, al-Tafsir al-Kabir (famous as Mafatih al-Ghayb) (Dar al-Fikr, 1405/1985) xxix, 97.)

The verse, in all its depth, encourages us to take a moment to contemplate the many ways we are nurtured and sustained by Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). The verse does more than just remind us of our blessings. It challenges us to deepen our understanding of gratitude. 

***

In Islamic teachings, gratitude for Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Blessings is deeply connected with empathy towards others. The Quran speaks against ingratitude and harm (Surah Al-Baqarah: 2;205), while it commends caring for the oppressed (Surah Al-Ma’un: 107;1-3). Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is noted for his empathy, as Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) describes him as deeply affected by others’ suffering and kind to believers (Surah At-Tawbah: 9;128). He ﷺ also taught that believers should empathize with each other like a single body feeling pain (Bukhari). These principles underscore the significance of empathy and justice as responses to divine blessings.

Gratefulness goes beyond acknowledging our blessings but also the struggles and sufferings of others. Unfortunately, we don’t often see other people’s pain. Tragedies, loss, destruction, and other sad news stories seem to pop up every day, but they can only ironically make us blind from the pain that people are going through, both at home and abroad.

Once we realize the blessings Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) asks, “Then which of your Lord’s blessings will either of you deny?” It’s crystal clear that when we look around, we’ll find countless reasons to be grateful for the favors of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)

Blessings of your Lord

Bound by duty [PC: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona (unsplash)]

This verse becomes even more meaningful when seen through the lens of the Palestinians today. The ongoing war has produced horrifying images of the current situation in Palestine. I am unable to express even a small fraction of their suffering or put it into words. The situation is deplorable for war victims, but they have demonstrated unwavering faith. Thinking about the verse in light of the Palestinian struggles forces us to confront the uncomfortable truths about privilege, power, and responsibility. Not everyone has the same shot at opportunities and freedoms we often overlook. It’s on us to acknowledge this reality and our faith calls us to stand in solidarity with those who are facing hardships, including nations facing atrocities and other grave injustices.

Having said this, true empathy requires more than just sentiment. It demands action and accountability such as requiring us to educate ourselves about the root causes of injustice, challenging oppressive systems, and supporting grassroots movements for change. 

Moreover, the verse challenges us to examine our complicity in systems of oppression and injustice. It requires us to recognize how our actions or inactions may cause others pain and take real action to fix them. This reminds us that true gratitude is not passive, but is expressed through action – through speaking out against discrimination and oppression in all its forms. 

The verse urges us to open our eyes and hearts. History bears witness to humanity’s tendency to favor worldly pursuits over spiritual progress. From ancient times to the present, the quest for power has often overshadowed the path of righteousness. Grand empires rose and fell, driven by ambition rather than divine guidance. In this age of technology marvels and material wealth, worldly distractions persistently draw us away from our spiritual core. As we journey through life, let’s listen for the inner voice that guides us back to our true purpose.

Then, which of the blessings of your Lord will you deny?

 

And so, I write, and I contemplate, and I offer my heart’s whispered response: “None, Ya Allah Ya Rahman, none!”

 

Related:

5 Steps To Grow From Passive To Active Bystanders During The Genocide Of Gaza

The Spirituality Of Gratitude

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Then The Sea Split: Reflections On The Story Of Prophet Musa, Gaza, And Hope

15 May, 2024 - 17:00

[Note from the author: “I was asked to speak to students at Georgetown, as well as at the encampment at George Washington University. This post is adapted from that talk: Then the Sea Split.”]

The Arresting Power of the Quran

Most times, we read the Quran like the speed limit on a highway – a quick glance, half-acknowledgment, and then continuation at the same speed irrespective of its instructions. A heedless heart passes admonishment after admonishment, knowing that it is negligent, and yet negligent of its own negligence. Life passes, signs pass, recitation of the Quran passes, and our speed remains entirely unchanged.

And then there are times when the Quran grips us with the terror of wailing sirens, squeezes us like a chest compressed by fear akin to looking down at a distant world from atop the tallest tower. This is one of those times – a time when the heedless heart comes to a sudden stop before the majesty of Divine speech, is arrested by the power of transcendent words.

This is a divine story of subjugation and emancipation; of oppression and liberation; of resilience and perseverance in moments of absolute desperation. This is the story of the tyrant “god-king” Fir’own and his defeat at the hands of the mighty messenger of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him).

The Pharoah’s Dream

If there are two quintessential dreams in the Quran, it is Yusuf’s 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) dream of eventual emancipation and the Pharoah’s dream of eventual destruction. The first dream signals the arrival of Banī Isrāʾīl to Egypt, and the other signals their departure from it. The dream of Yusuf 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) is mentioned explicitly in the Qur’an, while the Pharoah’s dream is only ever referenced, particularly in Surat al-Qaṣaṣ. At the beginning of the surah, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) introduces the story as follows:

“Indeed, Pharaoh ˹arrogantly˺ elevated himself in the land and divided its people into ˹subservient˺ groups, one of which he persecuted, slaughtering their sons and keeping their women. He was truly one of the corruptors.”

“But it was Our Will to favor those who were oppressed in the land, making them models ˹of faith˺ as well as successors;”

“and to establish them in the land; and through them show Pharaoh, Hāmān, and their soldiers ˹the fulfilment of˺ what they feared.” [Surah Al-Qasas: 28;4-6]

The reference in this ayah is to the well-known history of the Pharoah’s rule over Egypt – how he ruled over an enslaved Banī Isrāʾīl and elevated himself to the status of god-king. At the height of his power and glory, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) showed him a dream in which he told the Pharoah that he would be deposed by a child of the Banī Isrāʾīl, and, instead of acknowledging his evil and changing his ways, he resolved to perpetuate it further by killing the children of his slaves to avoid his eventual fate. And yet, fate is not a thing that can be avoided. It is either accepted willingly or brought about unwillingly. The Pharoah chose the latter.

The irony, of course, is that his eventual downfall was brought about by the very actions he took to prevent it. He killed the children of Banī Isrāʾīl, forcing the mother of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) to throw him into the river; which led to the wife of Pharoah adopting Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him); which led to Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) growing up in the palace; which led to him having the privilege to roam the city without fear; which led to him having the confidence to punch the Egyptian and accidentally kill him; which led him to flee Egypt; which led him to the watering hole of Madyan where he met Shuʿayb 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him); which led to his eventual arrival at the burning bush and prophecy; which led to his return to Egypt; which led to the nine signs; which led to the exodus of Banī Isrāʾīl from Egypt; which led the Pharoah and his army chasing their slaves; which led to the splitting of the sea; which led to the drowning of the Pharoah.

The very act the Pharoah took to avoid his fate brought it about. Every tyrannous regime believes it can avoid its collapse if it exerts further and greater control; but we believe in a just and merciful God, Who brings about the eventual destruction of the regime that hangs on to every last strand of a progressively slipping power by its very act of avoiding their downfall.

The Difference Between Resignation and Liberation is Hope

We often imagine the hand of God as a flash of lightning hidden in the darkness of the sky or the violence of the battering winds of a hurricane hidden in the timid breeze that blows softly on a cool spring night. The hand of God is not hidden only in the forces of nature. Rather, it is also hidden in the hope nestled deeply in the hearts of those who believe in Him. It is from His Majesty and Glory that He turns the hands of His Believers into the hand of God.

There are two such moments in the story of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). The first takes place at the very beginning of the story, when Musa’s 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) mother holds her child against her chest and is engulfed by fear like Yunus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) is engulfed by the roaring waters of a sea possessed by the rage of a violent tempest. In that moment, she has a choice to make: to resign herself to the fate of her child’s death, or to act – in complete desperation – to try and save him. What would the world have told her when she fed her child, then placed him in a basket, then placed him in the river? Would they have called her delusional? Would they have chided her for trying to avoid a fate clearly written? Would they have called her unrealistic, unpragmatic, wildly clinging onto hope she should have long since buried?

The great Pharoah has decreed it. The armies have conceived it. The people have believed it: that there is no hiding, no running, no hoping for emancipation, liberation, and revolution against the utter inhumanity of the god-king himself.

And, yet, the mother of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) knows what all others have forgotten – that, as long as there is a God, there is hope. The false god-king is ruled himself by the King of kings; that the power of the One overrules the power of all. 

And so she threw him into the flowing river, and that one act of desperate hope led to another moment before another body of water – this time at the end of the story of liberation.

The Strike of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)

Just like his mother before him, Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) stood face to face with utter desperation. Before him lay the vastness of an untraversable sea; behind him stood the chariots and spears of an unfeeling horde; and between the two of them stood the exhausted, terrified, hopeless Banī Isrāʾīl.

“We are caught,” they said.

“Never,” he replied. “My Lord is with me; He will guide me.”

And, indeed, his Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) did guide him, but to the strangest, most pointless actions possible: “Strike the sea,” he was told. Strike the boundless, outstretched, unpassable sea – a wall of water – with a glorified stick.

How strange he must have seemed to his people, to his companions, to the army that stood behind him – that this so-called prophet, standing with the world’s greatest army hell-bent on his annihilation to his back, with nothing but a stick to his name, who was thrown into the river as a child, betrayed by those who raised him, abused and oppressed when he returned to them – that he of all people would still have hope in his heart.

But hope is not something that can be taken. Wealth can be taken. Health can be taken. Freedom can be taken. Even life itself can be taken. But hope – that must be willingly surrendered by the hand of despair. Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) had known loss, suffering, and pain; but he had yet to know despair.

And so he held onto hope in hopelessness. And so he struck the sea. And the sea split.

Gaza Stands Before the Sea

Is there any greater parallel to the story of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) in our lifetime than the brave people of Gaza trapped against the impenetrable sea at Rafaḥ? Boundless water stretches before them, and a merciless, well-equipped, powerful army hell-bent on their complete annihilation stands behind them. This is the army that has slaughtered their children without cause, humiliated their women without pause, turned an entire city into a graveyard of rubble accompanied by thundering applause.

All this, after they endured almost two decades of starvation, isolation, and humiliation. All this, after they endured 75 years of subjugation, dehumanization, and domination. All this, after their land was stolen, their ancestors slaughtered, and their parents thrown out of their own homes. All this, after they watched the world stand by, cheerful observers of their ethnic cleansing and genocide.

What hope resides in the desperate hearts of Gaza except the hope they have in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)? What do they have left to say – and to whom will they say it? Will they say it to a world that has proven unbothered by their annihilation? Or will they say it to their brothers who have seemed to abandon them as Yusuf 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was abandoned in the well? Or do they say it to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) – the One, the Living, the Resolute, the Avenger – He Who hears the unspoken pleas hidden in the desperate beating of impassioned hearts?

For a people who choose between annihilation and subjugation, their every breath is a testimony of lā ilāha illā Allah. Their every drop of blood that flows in their veins, or is plastered against their bodies, or is mercilessly splattered onto the ground, becomes a testament to their belief in their final deliverance by the hand of God.

By their simple act of continuing to live and breathe, they have communicated their hope in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). So what of us? As we watch a genocide unfold live on our Instagram feeds and TikTok homepages, what of us? We, who feel helpless and hopeless, grieved and sorrowed, anguished and desperate – what does it mean for us to hope in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)?

To Lose Hope Is to Lose Faith

When the genocide first started, there was a sudden explosion of activism in the American Muslim community. From rallies and protests to calling and writing campaigns, it seemed as if a once politically dormant community had come to sudden life to do whatever they could for Palestine. It seemed to reach its climax in two historic moments, when we marched 300,000 in DC in November, and then another 400,000 in January. Despite all that movement and committed action, nothing seemed to come out of it.

We’ve been left a deeply disappointed people. We knew the moral nature of our cause, and we believed that if we marched and wrote and called and raised awareness and voted uncommitted, something – anything – would change. Instead, we faced disappointment after disappointment. Congresspeople we helped get into office refused to call for a ceasefire and continued to vote in favor of further aid for a regime dedicated to genocide. Companies fired people on charges of antisemitism, and the media continued to contort reality into a pre-packaged narrative. It all culminated in the events of the last few weeks, when university students across the world exercised their civil right to protest and were met with a brutal and reprehensible crackdown by universities and police departments.

It becomes then tempting for us to think, “What good is any of this going to do?”  

Do we have to know what good it will do before we do it? Are we supposed to be guaranteed success before we pursue it? We spend too much time overthinking ourselves into despair. We try to think ten steps ahead, can’t see a way out, and become so desperate that we fail to act. We don’t realize that to lose the desire to act is to lose hope, and to lose hope is to lose faith.

It doesn’t always matter if we don’t know what good will come from a good action, an action sanctioned by the moral law of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and in the service of His Cause, in the service of protecting and acting on behalf of the downtrodden, the oppressed. Thinking has its place; planning has its place; but if none of it leads to clear action, then they have lost their place.

At the very least, when the scattered ashes of our bodies that have mixed in with the soil of the earth are gathered up and molded into a perfect replication of every line on our fingertips, and we are brought face-to-face with our Creator, and we are questioned about what we did, what will we answer? When we are asked, “When my people were driven against the sea, slaughtered mercilessly, humiliated constantly, thrown to the wolves with utter savagery, what did you do?”

On that day, can we afford to answer, “Nothing?”

We don’t need to be perfect. Our plans don’t need to be foolproof. Our actions don’t need a guaranteed result. What guarantee did Musa’s 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) mother have when she threw him into the river, or Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) when he struck the sea with his staff, except for the promise of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)? And that is a promise that we share, because Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in the Quran:

“˹He will also give you˺ another favour that you long for: help from Allah and an imminent victory. ˹So˺ give good news ˹O Prophet˺ to the believers.” [Surah Al-Saf: 61;13]

Each one of us has a staff, and each one of us is set before an impassable sea. We all have abilities, talents, tools, and agency; we all have openings and opportunities; and we are all sitting before an immovable barrier between us and the freedom of Palestine.

Feel sincerely. Act morally. Plan thoroughly. Then strike the sea. It will split.

 

Related:

The Story of Prophet Musa: A Story of Optimism | Part 1

Podcast: Gaza’s Strength, Our Weakness | Shaykha Zaynab Ansari

 

The post Then The Sea Split: Reflections On The Story Of Prophet Musa, Gaza, And Hope appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

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