By Umm Zakiyyah
a short story
PART ONE | PART TWO
After the summer internship, Paula and I went our separate ways. We kept in touch, but we had our own lives to focus on. I went to college close to home to be near John, and Paula went to college in another state. When we talked, which was usually about once a month, Paula talked mostly about her burgeoning spirituality and all the different Islamic awareness activities Sommer was organizing. Though Sommer herself lived far from us both, Sommer was active nationally in several Muslim youth organizations and ran a pretty successful blog that focused on sexism amongst Muslims and the need for feminist interpretations of long-held patriarchal interpretations of the Qur'an and prophetic traditions.
Once Paula had even called to tell me that I absolutely had to turn on the TV “at this moment” because Sommer was being featured on a CNN special about Islam's alleged oppression of women. John was due any minute to pick me up and take me out to dinner, but I was curious enough to turn on the TV while I waited. John rang the doorbell while I was still watching and I asked if he could give me a minute, and he stood in the front room of my apartment watching snippets of the show himself as he waited for me.
“That's the girl who taught you about Islam?” John remarked after we were in the car.
“Yeah,” I said, smiling to myself as I buckled my seatbelt in the passenger seat. I was proud to have personally known someone who was so prominent.
“Good thing you only knew her for a few weeks.”
My eyebrows shot up as I regarded John. “What do you mean?”
He shrugged. “I don't know, Faith. She just sounds a little too opinionated for her own good.”
I smirked. “You know what Paula would call you now?”
He grinned knowingly. “A sexist?”
“And maybe a racist too.”
We both laughed.
“Why racist?” he said, humor still in his tone.
“Because it's obvious you think Arab-Pakistani girls don't have a right to their own minds.”
We chuckled, shaking our heads. It was a bitter joke because John was White, and he often said he felt reluctant to share his opinions about anything objectionable that a non-White did because he feared he would be labeled a racist.
“But I do agree with one thing she said.” John's tone was serious.
“What's that?” I asked, curious.
“That people who are gay and lesbian have a right to worship God like everyone else.”
I grew silent and looked out the passenger side window. The day I became Muslim Paula had asked Sommer if a gay person could be Muslim. When Sommer said yes (albeit reluctantly), Paula said, “That's all I wanted to know. Because I think I want to be Muslim too.” Then she became Muslim herself.
More than a year had passed since that conversation, and I couldn't get it out of my head. What did Paula mean by that? Did she consider herself gay? But that didn't make any sense. In high school, she'd had more boyfriends than most of the girls we knew. Was this because she was confused about her sexuality? Or maybe she was putting on a façade to hide who she really was.
“Yeah,” I agreed noncommittally, but I continued to stare out the window next to me. “We all sin. Nobody should be prevented from worshipping God just because their struggle is different from other people's.”
“I'm ready, Faith,” John said seconds later.
I turned to him, my forehead creased. “Ready for what?”
“To become Muslim.” He smiled flirtatiously then added, “And to marry you.”
I brought a hand to my mouth in surprise. “Are you serious?”
“If you are,” he said as he slowed to a stop behind a line of cars.
“Is this your idea of a proposal?” I teased. “Asking me to marry you at a stoplight?”
“It's more than an idea actually,” he said, smiling at me before turning his attention back to the road. “I want us to make it reality.”
John and I eloped a week later so that we could enjoy each other's company before making any official announcements of a formal wedding to our friends or family. Though I wanted to tell Paula, John convinced me that we should keep the decision to ourselves.
“What if she doesn't approve?” he asked one day as we lay awake in his apartment. “It would crush you, and I want the memories of this time to always be special for us.”
“I think she'll be happy for me,” I said, but I detected hesitance in my tone. Sommer had practically become a spiritual mentor to Paula, and though I wanted to believe that was a good thing, Paula's rants about male patriarchy in religion were increasingly more passionate than they were before she accepted Islam. I could only assume her views on early marriage (I was only nineteen and John twenty-one) did not mirror mine.
The mere possibility of hearing Paula criticize me for “dishonoring my womanhood” by giving myself to a man before I even had a college degree made my stomach churn in dread. John was right. We should keep this between ourselves for now. Besides, I was beside myself in happiness to be with John right then, and I didn't need anyone else's opinion, dissenting or otherwise, to make that feeling any more genuine.
“No it's not. No it's not!” My eyes fluttered open in the darkness, and I found John sleeping next to me, his breathing soft and rhythmic. My heart pounded with the same frustrated conviction that it had the first time I'd seen the dream. I sat up in bed, confusion and worry lingering where grogginess should have been.
The dream was unchanged. I had no idea what I was arguing about, and I didn't even know whom I was arguing with except that she was some girl with a faded red-heart tattoo on her lower back. I felt close and distant from myself at once, and the more I yelled, the farther the girl was out of my reach and the closer to myself I felt. There were black snakes and lizards coming toward the girl, but she didn't see them because she was so happy and content with whatever she was telling me. “No it's not!” I kept telling her in response, growing more desperate with each moment. And right before I woke up, I was in a green pasture alone, far from the girl, but I was losing my voice yelling at her though I knew she couldn't hear me.
“It means you're going to find the truth,” Sommer had said, interpreting the dream. “And after you find it, you're going to be tempted by yourself or someone you love to give up your faith, but you won't insha'Allah.”
Unable to sleep, I tossed aside the comforter, causing John to stir in his sleep. I went to the bathroom then washed my face. John and I were scheduled to have breakfast with my birth mother at nine o'clock the following morning, so I really needed to sleep.
Was I getting cold feet? Was that what this was about? I'd asked John to come with me because I thought it would make things easier. But now I wasn't so sure. I'd suggested to John that accompanying me might be the inspiration he needed to find his own birth parents. Like myself, John was adopted. But unlike myself, John didn't have the slightest inclination to find his real mother and father.
“What if they're drug addicts or something?” he'd often say.
“So what if they are?” I'd retort.
“It's different for African-American families,” he'd said once. “You all have closer bonds with your parents.”
“What? That's not true.” I don't know why, but I was deeply hurt by that comment. I guess in a way I felt that this was John's pathetic attempt to avoid facing his past. Unlike my own experience as the brown child of two White parents, John's outings with his adopted parents never incited questions or suspicions as to who his “real” parents were. Like my own adopted parents, John's were White, as was John, so people naturally assumed that John was their biological son. Apparently, other than close family and John himself, they'd never told anyone that John was adopted, and I sensed that in a bizarre case of wishful thinking, John believed that if he kept quiet about his true background, it would disappear. He didn't even want to accompany me when I met my birth mother for the first time. I suppose even that was cutting too close to home for him.
After leaving the bathroom, I felt a sudden need to read the Qur'an before trying to go back to sleep. I was still a bit unsettled by the dream, mainly because I could find no reason for having seen it a second time. I'd already found the truth. I was Muslim now, so what was I supposed to get from the dream this time around? Would my birth mother oppose my decision to be Muslim? But how would she find out in the first place? I didn't wear hijab, and I certainly didn't plan on telling her about my conversion, at least not during our first meeting.
I removed a copy of the Qur'an from a bookshelf in our bedroom, and I carried it to the kitchen, where I decided to put some water on for tea while I read.
“We have explained in detail in this Qur'an, for the benefit of mankind, every kind of similitude. But man is, in most things, contentious.”
This is the verse that would stay with me as I drifted to sleep the night before I would meet my birth mother.
A Life Changed Forever
The door to my apartment bathroom banged against the sink counter as I rushed inside. I dropped to my knees in front of the toilet and hung my head over the bowl as my stomach heaved and the contents of my breakfast exploded from my mouth. I clutched the porcelain seat as I vomited twice more and gagged on the bile burning the back of my throat. I spit into the commode one last time before reaching up to flush the toilet. I collapsed onto the tiled floor with my back against the porcelain bowl as the rush of water sucked the putrid contents down the pipes even as the stench of vomit lingered in the air.
I covered my face with my hands and my shoulders shook as I moaned and tears spilled from my eyes.
“I'm coming right now,” Paula said when I called her minutes later. I didn't want to tell her what had happened because, technically, my marriage to John was still a secret. But I really didn't know who else to turn to. After John, she was the only person I considered a good friend. I wanted to talk to my mother (my adopted mother) but I hadn't even told her I was Muslim or that I had found my birth mother—or that I'd run off and married John without her knowledge. And I knew now wasn't the time to divulge this, especially after what had happened at breakfast.
It was late at night when Paula stepped inside my apartment and found me sitting in the dark living room, staring off into space with my legs folded pretzel-style in front of me on the couch.
“You left your door open,” she said, playfully scolding me as she closed the front door and locked it. A second later light flooded the room.
I managed a tightlipped smile, but I didn't look in her direction. She put her arms around me and pulled me into an embrace, and I laid my head on her shoulder. The tears welled in my eyes again, but I blinked to keep myself from breaking down again.
We sat like that for some time in silence before she asked, “Faith, are you sure? Maybe there's some mistake…”
I drew in a deep breath and exhaled. I'd said the same thing over and over to myself the whole day, and I didn't even want to imagine what John was telling himself. I'd rushed out of the restaurant without him and took a taxi alone to my apartment. I still had a couple months left on the lease before I was supposed to move out and live with John full time.
“He recognized her too, Paula,” I said, dejected, my voice scratchy as I spoke into the cloth of her shirt.
“But he was a baby when he was adopted. How could he even remember?”
I shook my head, but that felt like too much effort. I sat up and Paula released me so I could look at her while I spoke. “I was eighteen months, and John was almost four.”
Paula averted her gaze. “But he's…”
“We have different fathers,” I said, already knowing what Paula was thinking.
I groaned aloud. “Why is this happening?” I blurted, a surge of anger overtaking me. “I love him.”
“But he's your brother, Faith,” Paula said softly.
As if I didn't know that! I wanted to slap her right then.
Paula drew in a deep breath and exhaled, the sound painfully empathetic. “Maybe this is a test from Allah. I know it must be hard, but—”
“Hard?” I glared at her. “No, Paula. Getting through high school was hard. Learning how to pray was hard. Saving myself for marriage was hard.” I shook my head and stood up, my arms folded over my chest as I struggled to keep my composure. “This isn't hard, Paula. This is…” My mind frantically searched for the term that could aptly explain my fury. “…f—ed up!”
I usually didn't use profanity, but right then I really didn't care. No words, not even profane ones, seemed heart-wrenching enough to accurately describe what I felt right then.
“Why would God even let this happen? Why did He make me and John fall in love?” I said, angry gasps between my questions. “He could've stopped us. He knew we weren't allowed to be together.”
I clinched my jaws and balled up my fists. “This is so unfair,” I said, speaking under my breath. “This is so f—ing unfair.”
“No it's not,” Paula said softly, but she wasn't looking at me. She was looking at her hands. I could tell she hated being in this position. She didn't want to be the one to tell me I couldn't be with the only man I loved. She didn't want to be the one to tell me there was no way for me and John to remain married. She didn't want to tell me that I'd saved myself, prizing my chastity and virginity all throughout my youth, only to give my heart and body to someone I was never allowed to be with in the first place.
“It is unfair,” I said, raising my voice as I glared at her.
“No it's not,” she said, raising her voice as she met my gaze. Her eyes filled with tears as her jaw trembled in tortuous compassion for me. She wanted to take away my pain, but she couldn't. I looked away.
“It's a test from Allah,” I heard her say, but I couldn't look at her. Tears filled my own eyes as her words pierced my heart. I knew she was right. But I didn't want her to be. “You're being tempted to give up your faith,” she said.
At that, I jerked my head around to meet her gaze and found that she and I were thinking the same thing. She apologized with her eyes, but I sensed she felt that, for my own good, I needed to hear what I already knew.
“It's like what Sommer said about your dream.”
“Do people think that they will be left alone on saying, 'We believe'
And that they will not be tested?”
John and I eventually annulled our marriage, and we mutually agreed to go our separate ways and avoid communication with each other except online via Facebook and Twitter. But we kept even that to a minimum. A year after the annulment, John left America to study Arabic and Islamic studies in the Middle East, but I remained where I was.
Paula and I grew closer as friends, and as she had the day I'd called her distressed, she periodically drove six hours to our hometown to visit me. She eventually opened up to me about her own personal and spiritual struggles and admitted that she was in fact attracted to women, not men. But in high school, she'd tried to fight it.
“I thought I just needed to meet the right guy,” she said. “But it turns out there was no right guy.”
“What are you going to do?” I asked her one day as we spoke on the phone. I wondered if Sommer knew, but I didn't feel comfortable asking.
“I'm hoping for a miracle,” she said jokingly. But I detected a sense of resentment in her voice. “Maybe I'll start a convent for Muslim nuns. You know, vowing celibacy for the sake of Allah and all that.”
We both laughed.
“I'll make du'a for you,” I said more seriously, letting her know I would pray for her. “I know it must be hard.”
“In a way,” she said, her voice somber, “you and I are the same.”
I grunted laughter. “I guess so.”
But I didn't want to think about John. Even now, three years later, he still had a hold on my heart. I'd tried to talk to other Muslim men for marriage, but nothing ever worked out. There were times that my heart and mind would search frantically for a way for me and John to be together. I searched fatwa after fatwa, asked scholar after scholar, and read all the Islamic material I could in hopes of finding something, anything, to justify me and John getting remarried. I'd even found a couple of religious loopholes that seemed plausible justifications for arguing that, technically-speaking, John and I were not officially brother and sister—by law or Islam. And since our mother never married my father or John's father, weren't John and I technically “illegitimate children” who were not mahram (legal relatives) for each other?
“Be careful,” Paula told me one day after I explained to her what I'd learned. “You don't want to do like that story in the Qur'an where the people were forbidden to fish on Saturday, but they put out the net on Friday so they could collect their fish on Sunday.”
I sighed in agreement, but my heart fell in defeat. I missed John so much that my heart literally hurt for him. Why couldn't I just move on?
“But there are so many different interpretations of things,” I said, desperate for any justification for what I wanted. “Maybe the laws forbidding mahram's from marrying don't apply to illegitimate children.”
Paula laughed, but I could tell she wasn't trying to be mean. “Oh please, don't go there,” she said. “You start doing that reinterpreting thing, and you might interpret yourself right out of the religion.”
“Maybe you're right,” I muttered.
I hugged my knees and concentrated my attention on the parking lot beyond my apartment window. It was all I could do to steady my trembling and think of something besides the torn envelope and embossed card next to me on the crumpled sheet of my bed.
I was upset. I knew that much. But there was something deeper knifing at my heart.
Your attendance is requested at the wedding celebration of Paula Smith and Sommer Khan.
I gritted my teeth as I glanced at the folded ivory-colored card. On the front of the card was a faded red heart, and beneath the heart was the calligraphic quote, “It's about love.”
No it's not, I protested in my mind. No it's not.
Part of me wanted to pick up the phone and confront her. I'd seen the link on her Twitter page to the article by Sommer entitled “It's About Love” that defended the rights of gays and lesbians to fully participate in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faith traditions. But I'd thought nothing of it. Same-sex marriage was discussed in the article, but I would have never imagined that Sommer was implying that our “faith tradition” should treat these unions as Islamically acceptable.
“It's about love,” Sommer kept repeating throughout the article.
“No it's not,” I said aloud as I snatched up the invitation card from my bed and ripped it in half right through the faded red heart.
It's about Allah, I thought to myself, reflecting on the tremendous lesson I learned from my own struggles. And it's about whether or not you'll accept Allah's invitation to choose Him over your desires.
Copyright © 2014 by Al-Walaa Publications. All Rights Reserved.
WRITTEN FOR MUSLIMMATTERS.ORG
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“Everything rises and falls on leadership.” This is a quote made famous by America's top leadership guru, Dr. John C. Maxwell, in his bestselling book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. The first time I read this quote was in 2002, when I was a rookie teacher at an Islamic school. I remember staring at that statement and thinking, “what does he mean by that?” To find the answer, I kept reading the rest of the book, and my life has never been the same.
I started to look at everything from a leadership lens. The good and bad of every school, masjid, organization, family and even country were directly related to the quality of their leaders. I was so fascinated by this topic of leadership that I went on to study it in graduate school. I also implemented as many good leadership principles as possible in my classrooms as a teacher in public, private, charter and international schools, and as a principal in private Islamic schools in the Virgin Islands and in Houston, Texas. Now, I teach these leadership principles day in and day out in companies, schools, non-profits and masjids internationally, because I know the kind of positive impact that great leadership can make.
When leadership is great, success inevitably follows. Likewise, when leadership is poor, failure inevitably follows. Think about it: give me some examples of successful countries, businesses and masjids and I will point you in the direction of the strong leader that orchestrated their success.
This is the first in a series of articles about leadership in which I discuss why all of us need to understand and live out the principles of great leadership. It doesn't matter whether we are teachers, parents, CEOs, doctors, imams, engineers, sons or daughters; we are all responsible for being leaders.
Abdullah bin Umar reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said,
“All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock. An imam is a shepherd and he is responsible for those in his care. A man is a shepherd in respect of his family and is responsible for those in his care. The woman is a shepherd in respect of her husband's house and is responsible for what is in her care. The servant is a shepherd in respect of his master's property and is responsible for what is in his care. All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock.”
What is the modern-day equivalent to the work shepherd in this hadith? IT'S LEADER! So reread the hadith above, but this time, replace the word shepherd, with the word leader.
I believe that it is our responsibility to become leaders, because that's what our beloved Prophet taught us to be, and that is what he was. He exemplified leadership in all areas of his life, and, if we are truly followers of his example, then we will seek to do the same. Also, by looking at the life of the Prophet Muhammad through this lens of leadership, my hope is that we will gain an even greater appreciation of how incredible he was, and our love for him will increase.
So let's take a look at the life and leadership of the greatest leader in the history of the world, the Prophet from the lens of the 21 Irrefutable Laws. As you're reading, be sure to contemplate on how we all can follow in the Prophet's example and live out these laws in our lives.
Law of the Lid: Leadership Ability Determines a Person's Level of Effectiveness
The Law of the Lid states that leadership ability is the lid that determines a person's level of effectiveness; the lower an individual's ability to lead is, the lower the lid on his potential. Likewise, the higher an individual's ability to lead is, the higher the lid on his potential. In other words, if your leadership ability is judged on a scale of 1 to 10 – with 1 being completely ineffective and 10 being extremely effective – your potential will coincide with your level of leadership. So, if your leadership ability is a 9, you're going to get incredible results, but if your leadership is a 2, your results will be less than stellar.
Let's look at this law based on the life of the Prophet . How effective was the Prophet in his mission? What was his level of effectiveness?
The fact that I'm writing this article on this blog is proof of how incredibly effective the Prophet was as a leader. Based on the definition of the law provided earlier, the Law of the Lid proves clearly without a doubt that the Prophet was the most impactful human being to ever walk the face of the earth. His leadership ability was through the roof; therefore, he was able to change the course of human history forever. He was a perfect 10!
Reflection Questions on the Law:
- So what is your leadership lid? If we're not striving to be 10's, then we're not striving to be like the Prophet .
Law of Influence: The True Measure of Leadership is Influence – Nothing More, Nothing Less
The Law of Influence states that leadership is measured based on a person's ability to influence others; nothing more, nothing less. Let's look at the influence of the Prophet :
Only a few short years after the Prophet and his followers were forced out of their hometown of Mecca, he came back accompanied by 10,000 others and became the ruler. Within the next 100 years, the Islamic Empire stretched from Morocco to China. Fourteen hundred years later, Muhammad is the most popular name in the world, and there are over 1.3 billion Muslims spread out across the entire globe. His name is being repeated across the globe millions of times daily. His life is being studied in homes, masajid and universities across the globe. Whether you walk into a mosque in Tokyo, Delhi, Dubai, London, New York City, Los Angeles, Bogota or Sao Paulo, you will hear Surah al-Fatiha recited and see people praying the way that the Prophet used to pray.
The incredible ways Prophet influenced the course of human history would require volumes upon volumes of books to enumerate.
Reflection Questions on the Law:
- How are we influencing or making a positive impact in the world?
- How are we influencing our families, communities, co-workers, children, cities and countries?
- If the Prophet's mission was about changing the world, shouldn't ours be too? Should we not also be people of influence?
Law of Process: Leadership Develops Daily, Not in a Day
The Law of Process states that growth in leadership happens every single day, not in a single day.
Have you ever heard the story about the Prophet taking a day off from his leadership responsibilities? Of course you haven't because it didn't happen! He worked tirelessly for the sake of humanity. He worked tirelessly for you and me. Every day was a new challenge for him; a new problem to manage; a new threat on his life or the lives of his followers; a new hypocrite to deal with; a new tribe to negotiate with; a new rumor about him or his family to quell; a new strategy to develop; a new leader to give da'wah to; a new Muslim to teach; and a new world to create. Day in and day out he faced the kinds of challenges that developed and sharpened his leadership skills, to the extent that he became the greatest leader ever.
Reflection Questions on the Law:
- What do we do to develop our leadership skills, day in and day out?
- How can we intentionally follow the Sunnah of growing as leaders, day in and day out?
Law of Navigation: Anyone can Steer the Ship, but It Takes a Leader to Chart the Course
The Law of Navigation states that it's the leader who sets the vision for his people and then leads them there.
Are there words to describe the incredible vision of the Prophet ? Can you imagine what it would be like if you and the people you led were tortured, boycotted, mocked, murdered and driven out of your homes and still having the wherewithal to talk about conquering Rome and Constantinople? Allahu akbar! How amazing is that? The Prophet always kept the greater vision for his people at the forefront of his mind and the minds of his people. He never took his eyes off the ultimate prize and greater mission.
He had the vision and foresight to:
- send Musab to Madinah long before he made hijra to develop a following there before his arrival
- send the believers to Abyssinia when they didn't want to
- always remind the people of the greater life to come
- sign the treaty of hudaybiyya despite some of his companions objections
- listen to his advisors in the battle of the trench and the thwarted trip to Mecca for Hajj
- develop young and dynamic leadership all around him so the work would continue after his death
- know when to be patient and quiet and when to step up and speak out
- give the right roles to the right people at the right times; ibn Masud, Khalid ibn Waleed and Musab ibn Umary are a few that come to mind
These and countless more examples from the Prophet's life show that he was a forward thinking person of great vision, therefore we should be the same.
Reflection Questions on the Law:
- How do we exemplify this quality from the Sunnah in our lives?
- What is our long term vision for ourselves, our families, our communities and our organizations? And what steps do we need to take to make that vision come to life?
Law of Addition: Leaders Add Value by Serving Others
The Law of Addition emphasizes the practice of Servant Leadership, or the concept that the leader is there to serve the people and not the opposite. The Prophet was truly a servant of the people who added value to everyone's life that he came across. Whether it was a ruler that he was inviting to Tawheed; a companion the he was teaching and developing; an old lady whose bags he was carrying; a sick member of the community that he was visiting; or one of the many children in the community that he was raising; he added great value to everyone's life around him. The most incredible fact is that some 1400 years later he is still adding value to hundreds of millions of people worldwide on a daily basis.
There is a saying that has been attributed to the Prophet (although I have yet to find an authentic source) that summarizes who he was beautifully. “The believer is like a light rain, everywhere he goes he brings benefit.” In other words, if we want to be like the Prophet, then we should strive to be people that make a positive impact and add value everywhere we go.
Reflection Questions on the Law:
- Who did you add value to today?
- Who can you intentionally add value to every single day? Think of the people that you have influence over…imagine them in your mind right now and think about how you can add value to them day in and day out.
Law of Solid Ground: Trust is the Foundation of Leadership
Without trust, there cannot be leadership. The Law of Solid Ground states that Trust is the foundation upon which leadership and influence is laid. Every leadership guru in the modern world speaks of trust as an integral part of great leadership. What again was the Prophet's nickname before he even became a prophet?
That's right…Al ameen, the Trustworthy. SubhanAllah, Allah was setting up the Prophet for successful leadership and influence well before he became a prophet. Imagine what would have happened if the people had even a little bit of doubt in regards to the Prophet's character? His call was initially rejected despite the fact that he was a person of impeccable character and was known for his trustworthiness.
Reflection Questions on the Law:
- If people were to rate your trustworthiness on a scale of 1 – 10, what would your score be? Family? Friends? Co-workers? Business partners? Spouse?
- Have you ever broken someone's trust? If so, how did you make amends?
- Has anyone ever broken your trust? If so, did you ever forgive them and were they able to regain your trust eventually? If they did regain your trust, how did were they able to do that?
Law of Respect: People Naturally Follow Leaders Stronger Than Themselves
The Law of Respect states that people will only follow those who are stronger than themselves. To understand this law within the context of the Prophet's life, you simply need to look at the caliber of people who chose to follow him. Omar ibn al Khattab, Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, Khalid bin Waleed, Ali bin Abu Talib, Othman bin Affan, Asma bint Yazid, Muad ibn Jabal, Musab ibn Umayr, Asma bint Abu Bakr, Az Zubayr ibn al Awam, Talha bin Zaid, Sumayyah bint Khubbat, Abdullah ibn Masud, Abu Obayday ibn al Jarrah, Rumaysa bint Milhan, Salman al Farisi, Suhayb al Rumi, Abu Dhar al Ghifari and Hamza just to name a few.
Leaders, warriors, poets, business moguls, chieftains, scholars from various places of various ages and talents all chose to follow the Prophet . The greatest united collection of human beings to ever walk the face of the earth was assembled under his leadership and followed him to the extent that their level of loyalty to him was something that the world had never witnessed before.
They followed him because they respected him and knew that he was stronger than them, because people don't follow leaders who have a lower capacity then themselves. Another example of the strength of the Prophet's leadership is that after his death the Muslims were never 100% unified again.
Reflection Questions on the Law:
- What do you do to intentionally to become a stronger leader every day?
Law of Intuition: Leaders Evaluate Everything with a Leadership Bias
The Law of Intuition states that leaders always look at things from a leadership lens. When you study the life of the Prophet , you begin to realize just how incredibly strong of a leader he was. From identifying and developing future leaders, to uniting people from various backgrounds, cultures and races on one shared belief system and way of life; the Prophet's leadership bias is clear. I have shared some examples within the previous laws and will share many more through the remainder of the laws.
Reflection Questions on the Law:
- Do you view life through a leadership lens?
- How keen are you in identifying both good and bad leadership when you see it?
Law of Magnetism: Who You Are is Who You Attract
The Law of Magnetism states that the people that you will attract into your organization, community or your life is determined by you are. Think about the 5 people that you spend the most time with in the world. If you balanced all of their characteristics, mannerisms, mindset and lifestyle and you'll be looking at yourself. That's why the Prophet said:
“A person is on the same way of life as his close companion. Therefore, let every one of you carefully consider the company he keeps.” [Tirmidhi]
This law is actually saying the same thing as the hadith but from the opposite perspective. You will ultimately attract the kind of people that are like you to you. This works both on a personal and organizational level. For those of you who watch sports, why are the great teams able to recruit even more great players to their team? Or even in business, how do Google, Apple, Harvard, Stanford and the likes continue to attract top notch talent. It's because they are attracting who they are. Like attracts like. Or think about the really successful Muslim organizations here in the West: Al Maghrib, Zaytuna, Bayyinah and Muslimmatters .
Now look at the Prophet and who he was able to attract to a cause that was not popular and went against many of the fundamental principles of the society that he lived in? The best and brightest came to Islam through the Prophet's example because that's who he was.
Reflection Questions on the Law:
- Are you attracting the right kind of people into your life?
- If you are not, then what do you have to do, or better yet, WHO DO YOU HAVE TO BECOME, in order to attract the right kind of people to you and your organization?
Law of Connection: Leaders Touch a Heart Before They Ask for a Hand
The Law of Connection states that leaders always seek to help and connect with others before they ask for help. Are you focused on your own needs or the needs of others? “If you help enough people to achieve their goals, they'll help you achieve yours” Zig Ziglar.
The Prophet was always focused on helping others. He served people through difficult times of great pain and suffering. He constantly was kind and gentle with people even though they were unkind towards him. How many hearts did the Prophet touch in his lifetime? And how many hearts has he touched since his passing? He is our guide in life and has taught us how to be outstanding human beings.
I honestly cannot imagine how my life would have played out if I had never studied the life of this great man. What if I went days, months, years without hearing his name? Just the mere thought of life without knowing him is too much for me to bear. I am sitting in a café typing this right now with tears welling up in my eyes.
So if he always sought to connect with and help people first and foremost, what about us? Sometimes we can become so self-centered and focused on our own goals and aspirations that we forget that the Sunnah is actually to focus on and serve others.
Reflection Questions on the Law:
- How do you intentionally connect with the hearts of others on a daily basis?
- How do you intentionally serve others on a daily basis?
Law of Inner Circle: A Leader's Potential is Determined by Those Closest to Him
The Law of Inner Circle states that the level of your potential is determined by those who you choose to surround yourself with. I've already mentioned some points of note related to this topic in the Laws of Respect and Magnetism, however I want you to ponder over one point related to this law.
Our potential as leaders is determined by those in our inner circles. What is your potential? What would you be doing if you were living at 100% of your potential in life? I want you think about this and create an image in your mind of you at your absolute best. What would you be doing daily?
I think too many of us settle for lives that aren't our best. I think this is one aspect of the Sunnah that is not present in our discourse at all…the Sunnah of living to your full potential. Was there anything that the Prophet set out to do that he didn't accomplish? Did he not live out to his full potential? Did the sahaba not actively seek to live out their best lives possible?
The Prophet didn't haphazardly choose his Inner Circle. He knew where he wanted to go and what he wanted to accomplish so he made sure that the people who were closest to him were world changers like himself!
Reflection Questions on the Law:
- What does the best version of you look like?
- Who do you need to have in your Inner Circle to help you live up to your full potential?
Law of Empowerment: Only Secure Leaders Give Power to Others
The Law of Empowerment states that leaders who are secure in their leadership make it a point to empower others. To understand this, let's consider the opposite…an insecure leader. Have you ever worked with or for someone who was insecure in their leadership? Their insecurity will usually manifest itself through lack of gratitude for their subordinates and co-workers; overemphasis on personal accomplishments and under emphasis on others' accomplishments; purposefully limiting the growth of their subordinates, coveting their position and seeking titles for the sake of the title and not for greater service.
The Prophet empowered so many leaders around him in various capacities. He empowered his wives by seeking their counsel and implementing it. He empowered youth by giving them REAL responsibilities. He selected young leaders amongst his companions to lead armies, spread and carry the message to foreign lands, and become scholars and teachers in order to carry the message forward after his death. He empowered the slaves and poverty stricken of their society; gave them dignity and important roles such as appointing Bilal (a former slave) as the Muaddhin (Caller to Prayer).
Empowering others is a critical part of the Sunnah for leaders to follow.
Reflection Questions on the Law:
- How does a leader go from being insecure to being secure?
- How do you empower others that you lead and are responsible for?
Law of the Picture: People Do What People See
The Law of the Picture states that people will follow the leader not just in their speech, but more importantly in their actions. Followers do what they see their leaders doing. This is an absolutely critical concept for leaders to understand. If you lead in any capacity, at work, home or in your community, know that you are being watched! I have to admit that I have made my fair share of mistakes during my time as a school principal. I remember one incident in which I was joking around with one of the students and I gave him a funny nickname, or what I thought was a funny nickname, but unfortunately the other students picked up on it and started referring to him with the same nickname. It wasn't derogatory by any means; however I could tell that the student didn't really love being referred to by that nickname. So I tried hard to convince the other students that it was not a good thing to call him and I apologized profusely. The nickname did eventually go away, however the fact that the student may have felt bad due to my account very much saddens me to this day. I ask Al Ghafoor to forgive me for my insensitivity.
This incident and many others taught me a powerful lesson on the importance of always trying to behave with ihsaan, in particular in a leadership role. I say that because when you're not in a leadership position, your actions may not impact others in as great a way as it will when you're a leader. This principle goes so far and so deep. Just look at the Muslim leaders in the west and those who follow them. Followers of a particular movement talk like the leader, act like the leader and even start to change their physical appearance to match the dress and style of the leader.
All of this is precisely why the statement of Aisha who said that the Prophet's character was like a walking Qur'an is so incredibly profound! He walked his talk! His character was so beautiful that the Sahaba studied and emulated his every move. The minute details of his life have been studied and followed more than any other person's in human history. It's the reason why you see people throughout the world brushing their teeth with miswaaks, wearing long garbs, turbans and cologne (athar).
Followers do what they see, so what are your followers doing?
Reflection Questions on the Law:
- How do you ensure that your actions are congruent with what you say?
- Can you think of examples of good and bad actions that your followers have done directly as a result of the example that you set? How do those things make you feel?
Law of Buy-In: People Buy into the Leader, Then the Vision
The Law of Buy-In states that people will not buy into what your vision is until they buy into you as a person and as their leader. Think about this for a second…it is almost never the case that a vision propels people forward without a credible leader pushing that vision forward. Social Media has changed that phenomenon a bit, however for a viral video, message or cause to really make a broad impact, there are leaders that take center stage and make that cause real and take it beyond what it was only on facebook, twitter, vine or youtube.
In terms of the Prophet's life, this is law provides a fascinating insight into Allah's Divine wisdom in selecting and preparing the Prophet in particular to carry out this message. A man of great integrity; a man of the noblest character; a man of great internal and external strength; a man of excellent dress and of medium height and build; the most handsome of men; a man of balanced temperament; a man of great wisdom and patience; an orphan and a former shepherd; this was the man that was selected by Allah to bring the final and perfect message from God to mankind.
It was easy for the people to buy into the Prophet because he exemplified Noble Character and had an amazing combination of perfectly balanced qualities. Even when his enemies tried to defame him, they really couldn't because anyone who met him and met them would know clearly who was on the path of truth and who wasn't. When people met him, they knew just by looking at him that he was a person of honesty and integrity; that they were not looking at the face of a liar or dishonest man.
Obviously, we can't share the physical attributes of the Prophet , but we can try to emulate his character and prophetic qualities. If we want to be leaders and agents of positive influence, then people will have to buy into us before they buy into what we're selling.
Reflection Questions on the Law:
- When taking on a new position of leadership, was it easy or difficult to get the people to buy into you? How so?
- When trying to set a new vision for your organization, school or community, what steps do you need to take in order to get them to first buy into you and then your vision?
Law of Victory: Leaders Find a Way for the Team to Win
The Law of Victory states that leaders always figure out how to lead their teams, companies, communities and even countries to victory. Obviously, in sports, defining victory is simple whereas in the real world what being victorious really means is quite ambiguous. However, the principle remains. Leaders know how to drastically improve the situation of whatever it is that they are leading. Steve Jobs is a great example of this law. Apple was a big hit in the 80's then died down after he left, only to rise to its greatest prominence upon his return to the company in the early 2000's.
The Prophet exemplified this law greater than any other human being in history. How he went from receiving the message and being the world's only 'Muslim' to becoming the leader of his people, to being a source of guidance and inspiration for over 1 billion people over 1,400 years later is unfathomable. Despite all odds, with the help of Allah and the support of his companions, he was able to fulfill his mission.
Reflection Questions on the Law:
- How have you helped those whom you are responsible for leading to victory?
- What were the key components you needed in order to become victorious?
Law of the Big Mo: Momentum is a Leader's Best Friend
The Law of the Big Mo states that once momentum is created by the leader, it helps to propel your mission and/or organization faster and farther then you could have ever expected. Once momentum is established, great things happen and the leader is given far more credit than he deserves. The hard part is creating that momentum and that's where the leadership ability of the leader comes into play. He is responsible for creating that momentum and this is no easy task. Just look to the life of the Prophet and you'll see how difficult it can be.
One can argue that the 'Tipping Point' for the Prophet's message spreading rapidly was the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah. Up until that point, Islam had definitely gained traction amongst some of the masses and a new capital city was established in Madinah, however it really thrived after the signing of Hudaybiyyah.
It took the Prophet the entire time in Mecca and then 6 years after the hijra in order to take the message to the point where it spread rapidly and was widely accepted. After Hudaybiyyah, Islam has never stopped growing.
Momentum will take the vision and mission of your company, community and country farther than you could have imagined. It really is a leader's best friend.
Reflection Questions on the Law:
- How have you created positive momentum in your various leadership roles?
- What are some of the positive outcomes that have occurred as a result of this momentum that exceeded your expectations?
Law of Priorities: Leader's Understand that Activity Is Not Necessarily Accomplishment
The Law of Priorities states that merely being busy does not equate to being effective. Have you ever been around leaders who move and talk really fast but when you ask them what they've accomplished they have very little to show? These leaders don't understand that in order to be the most effective leader possible, you must intentionally choose to do the right things. The right things are the ones that matter most and the ones that give you the best return on investment for your time.
Think of it like this…time is the most valuable asset that we have, and as leaders we oftentimes have very little of it on our hands. So how we organize that time is extremely important to achieving our highest level of effectiveness. Let me share an example from my own life. As a principal, there are 100 different tasks to be completed at the same time on a daily basis, and I could have easily gotten busy doing all of them simultaneously, and I did! The lack of focus caused me to get burned out very quickly! However, after a couple of years of experience under my belt, I reread about this law and decided to come up with a list of the top 3 tasks that brought me the greatest return and focus most of my time on those three. After much contemplation and reflection, I actually came up with a list of two: communication and coaching. Those were the two things that gave me the greatest return on investment of my limited time. Once I made the switch and started to focus most of my time on these two areas, I started to see much greater results and felt like I was working less. I wasn't, however it felt like I was because I was engaged in activities that not only brought me the best results, but they also were duties that I thoroughly enjoyed doing.
Now, let's go back to the life of the Prophet . When we look into his seerah from this leadership lens, you see clearly that he always focused on the biggest priorities at any given time period. In the beginning of the call in Mecca, he focused his time on teaching and training his followers and on his own personal growth in prayer and reflection. Even the Sunnah of Allah is profound in that the verses that came down focused mainly on developing the aqeedah of the believers and their connection with Allah, His Messenger and the next life.
Of course later after the hijrah, the Prophet spent much more of his time on community building and spreading the message now that a base city had been established. Finally, towards the end of his life, he spent more time completing his duties to Allah and humanity by putting the final pieces of the message together. His life is a profound example of prioritizing our time depending on current needs and circumstances.
Reflection Questions on the Law:
- How do you prioritize your time? Which activities bring you the greatest return on investment for your time? Which activities bring the least? How can you do more of the former and less of the latter?
- Think back on your experiences to an example of when you prioritized well and when you prioritized poorly.
Law of Sacrifice: Leaders Must Give Up to Go Up
The Law of Sacrifice states that in order for you to keep rising up the leadership ladder, you're going to have to make more and more sacrifices. Great leadership means greater responsibility to serve.
This law is exemplified by no one throughout the course of human history better than the Prophet . It seems that all he did was sacrifice for his followers, for you and me, for our parents, for our children and grandchildren to be successful in this life and the next.
The examples of his sacrifices are too numerous to discuss all of them, but I will mention a couple:
- When the Muslims were kicked out of Mecca and were surviving off of tree leaves and random donations of the most basic food from well-wishers in Mecca, the Prophet was the hungriest of all of them. He ate last and he ate the least.
- He sacrificed all for the pleasures of the dunya for a greater cause. Can you imagine if Bill Gates or some other billionaire tycoon came to you and offered you anything that you wanted in the world? Money, mansions, yachts, exotic cars, private jets, the finest jewelry and everything else that the dunya had to offer was yours at your convenience. The Prophet was offered this by the wealthy leaders at that time and chose the life of servanthood and struggle for a greater cause instead.
So the question that comes to mind that we have to ask ourselves is: what are we willing to sacrifice for the sake of Allah and the people? Many of us live self-serving lives in that we do good for ourselves and maybe our immediate families but we don't seek to make a bigger impact in order to serve humanity. Success is what we do for ourselves, but greatness is what we do for others. Real leadership is all about sacrifice. The higher we go up the ladder of leadership, the more sacrifice is required from us.
Reflection Questions on the Law:
- What sacrifices are you willing to make to keep climbing the ladder of leadership?
- What sacrifices have people made for you to help you get to where you are today?
Law of Timing: When to Lead is As Important As What to Do and Where to Go
The Law of Timing states that understanding and practicing good timing is a critical component of great leadership. When the leader chooses to do the right thing at the right time then great success follows. When the leader chooses to do the right thing at the wrong time, there is limited success. When the leader chooses to do the wrong thing at the wrong time, the people get a new leader.
When analyzing the life of the Prophet , we can see how clearly he understood this law. When the companions around him were calling for retaliation for the brutality and torture that they were suffering from, the Prophet understood the importance of timing.
When the Prophet decided to climb the hill outside of Mecca and proclaim his message publicly, he knew it was the right time because he needed certain people to join their ranks in order to strengthen and grow.
When the Muslims were prevented from entering into Mecca to perform the pilgrimage, the Prophet understood that this was a good time to sign the Treaty of Hudaybiyah. Even though many of his companions disagree with him and were furious over the terms of the treaty, the Prophet understood that the timing was right for a period of peace to ensure the continued spreading of the message.
Also, when the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah was broken, the Prophet knew that the time was right to gather the Muslims together and re-enter Mecca.
His entire life is a study in the law of timing.
Reflection Questions on the Law:
- Think about a situation or circumstance that you've faced in the past in which you've followed the law of timing. What results ensued?
- Think about a situation in which you did not heed the law of timing. How were your results different?
Law of Explosive Growth: To Add Growth Lead Followers – To Multiply, Lead Leaders
The Law of Explosive Growth states that if you really want to amplify your positive impact in the world, don't lead followers, lead leaders. It's good to reflect from time to time and ask ourselves, how many leaders have we developed?
I remember a conversation I had about 20 years ago with imam Siraj Wahhaj who I see as a modern day Malcolm X, in which he emphasized how important this issue of leadership is and how critical it is to develop leaders in our communities. I believe that imam Siraj understood this because he is a student of the life of the Prophet .
I'm not going to mention all of the leaders that the Prophet developed. I'll just remind you of the 4 that stand out the most: Abu Bakr, Omar, Uthman and Ali . Consider the accomplishments of these 4 leaders within a relatively brief time period and we see just how powerful the Law of Explosive Growth really is. To really put that in perspective think about how their lives would have been different had they not received the tutelage and development from the Prophet that they did. What would Abu Bakr, Omar, Uthman and Ali's lives been like had they chosen not to become followers of the Prophet's leadership? It's an interesting thing to consider hypothetically, but alhamdulillah for all of us that they did learn and develop under the Prophet's leadership.
The Prophet developed so many leaders around him. He lifted them up; he set a perfect example for them to follow; he added valued to their lives in so many ways and they returned the favor; he empowered them and gave them responsibilities; he instilled confidence in them by believing in them; he gave them hope for a better future; he developed their hearts, minds, souls and character; he encouraged them to seek to be their best physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally; he helped them to become the best version of themselves, thereby creating the greatest generation of people to ever walk the face of the earth .
What inevitably results when you lead leaders is a profound impact on not only the individuals themselves, but all those who they lead, their families and their communities.
Reflection Questions on the Law:
- What changes do you have to make in order to develop leaders rather than followers?
Law of Legacy: A Leader's Lasting Value is Measured by Succession
The Law of Legacy states that you can measure a leader's lasting impact by how effective their successors are. I personally understood this law the hard way. The first school that I was a principal of, I did not have a successor who was ready to take over when I left. Therefore, the changes that I implemented at the school didn't last because I did not set up the leadership moving forward.
Alhamdulillah, for all of us, the Prophet didn't make those kinds of mistakes. He set up the leadership for our ummah not only immediately following his death, but gave us examples for us to always refer to until the end of time. I really want you to think about that and how profound it is. The lessons from the Prophet's leadership and the leadership of his successors were examples for us to follow transcending both time and place. I would say without a doubt, that this is the greatest legacy that the world has ever seen!
This is the reason why I wrote this series of articles.
- To help us better understand leadership and the leadership imperative for all of us.
- To share some leadership lessons from the life of the Prophet so that we can implement them in our own lives.
- To appreciate and value how incredibly profound the life of the Prophet was by analyzing it through the lens of leadership.
- To increase our love of him .
I hope that you have benefitted from this series of articles. I ask Allah to forgive me for any mistakes I may have made and I ask Him to accept any good that may come from it.
I think it's time that we step up to the plate and become the dynamic and inspirational leaders that our deen calls us to be and that the Prophet taught us to be. I wish you all the best on your leadership journeys.
The post Lessons in Leadership from the Prophet Muhammad (saw) appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.
When Mahmoud Elkadri arrived at the mosque in Cold Lake, Alta., early Friday morning, he was met with a disturbing sight.
The words “Go home” and “Canada” had been sprayed across the front face of the building sometime over the night. Vandals had also smashed two of the mosque’s windows.
“When you’re coming in the morning for a peaceful prayer, it is hard,” said Elkadri, who is one of the mosque’s board members.
“This is our home. My kids have been born and raised in Cold Lake. … I have been in Cold Lake since 1996.”
Only a couple hours later, it was a much different sight. Over the course of the morning, dozens of people from the town showed up to help repair the damage. Some helped paint over the damage, while others taped their own messages to the window reading “You Are Home” and “Love Your Neighbour.”
Cold Lake resident Matt Downey, who came down to the mosque with his daughter to deliver flowers to Elkadri, says he wanted to show that the vandals didn’t speak for the majority of the people in town.
“It’s sad. I mean, these guys are peaceful. I think it is important for the community to show them that we know the difference between extremists and a religion,” he said.
Elkadri said he’s received visits and messages of support from soldiers stationed at the Canadian Forces base in Cold Lake.
“We were crying together in the morning. People coming here, people expressing their feelings,” he said.
Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland says the mosque is an important part of the town and that he was disappointed that someone in the community could be behind the damage.
“I just want to say that the Muslim community is at home in Cold Lake, so maybe they need to evaluate whether or not they belong in Cold Lake,” he said of the vandal.
Copeland thinks the vandalism is in response to the shooting in Ottawa that killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo on Wednesday. He said that people are taking out their frustration on the wrong place.
Conditions inside Mosul, the largest city under Islamic State (Isis) control, have dramatically deteriorated, residents say, with severe shortages of food and water, no functioning public institutions, and the local economy in a state of near collapse.
In a series of interviews, locals in the Iraqi city paint a bleak picture of life under Isis rule. They say that discontent with the militants who swept into Iraqs second city nearly five months ago is growing. Most public institutions have stopped working and provide no services. Almost all private sector activity and government-funded construction projects have been put on hold. Thousands of workers have been rendered jobless.Continue reading...
Isis could not have emerged without support from western powers and their regional allies. These facilitated the travel of jihadis from 80 countries into Syria, funded them, and then trained and armed them. So long as these jihadis were committing crimes in Syria against Syrians and Assads regime (which, to be clear, bears responsibility for the ongoing disaster there), western governments turned a blind eye. After all, at the time Isis was doing the bidding of the same neoconservatives and liberal interventionists who had decided that the overthrow of Libyas despot, Gaddafi, should be followed by the overthrow of Assad. This would then enable them to go for the main prize, the Iranian regime. However, Isis became a problem for the west when, following the pattern established by al-Qaida and the Taliban, they turned their guns against western interests in the region and tried to capture the oil fields of the Kurdish region, which was not part of the plan.
Although Isis is a product of the wests policy of domination, it is also a Sunni version of Khomeinism. It was Ayatollah Khomeini who sanctified and glorified violence under the garb of religion, and the heinous crimes committed by his regime set precedents for Isis. These include the beheading of opposition leaders and others, the execution of prisoners and the injured (which, after the June 1981 coup against me, reached 300-400 a night and climaxed in 1988 when the regime executed more than 4,000 prisoners who had already been sentenced and were serving prison terms).Continue reading...
A documentary explores the complex relationship of women with Islam in their society, still as contentious as ever
I chose the photos for this video from the internet by searching the words Iran, women, and youth. I mixed these images with photos I found on book covers and magazines. I tried to see what was available to the average person in the public sphere about Iran. I borrowed some photos from two great photographers, Newsha Tavakolian and Abbas Kowsari, who generously opened their archives to me. The rest are my own personal and family photographs.
Power of Cliche is a work from 2006. I thought it had passed its expiry date. But the issue of Iranian women keeps being revisited. The cliche continues to resonate, even though we are experiencing a shift in the way Iranian women are used to represent Iran.Continue reading...
As a student of religious studies, I have always been interested in studying how religion has worked as a binding factor to bring people of various faiths together. Growing up as a kid in northern New Jersey in the late 90s, my family became good friends with a Bhori-Shia family who lived down the street from us. Though theological differences between Sunnis and Shias are have been seen throughout the world to set both of these groups apart, our families clicked very well and became very close, not to mention that their son Murtaza was my age and went to school with me.
That wasn't the only similarity between us, rather, there were many. Both my father and Murtaza's grew up in Calcutta, India. Both families lived in similar socioeconomic circumstances. Our mothers became quite close from their initial conversation, both families had similar likes and dislikes, and both had an affinity to their faith groups. Though we recognized that we were a practicing Sunni family and they were dedicated followers of Bhori-Shiism, we did not use our differences to set us apart as much as we used our similarities to come together. When the time of prayer would come, our family would pray in one group while they would pray in their own. There were many areas of theology and worship which both of us differed on, but we were always very close regardless of those issues. We didn't agree on everything, but we also didn't fight to make the other conform.
After almost twelve years of not seeing each other, many failed attempts to hang out, and letting life play its role, I finally got a chance to go out and get dinner with Murtaza in September 2013. He recently came back to the states after studying for seven years throughout the world. He went to a Bhori-Shia seminary in Pakistan where he memorized the Qur'an and completed a course at the same institution, spent time studying at Al-Azhar in Cairo, and also became certified in various Islamic disciplines from various institutions throughout his journey. Murtaza is now finishing his undergraduate studies in Peace and Conflict Studies at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.
We laughed at all the good times our families had together back in the day. It was crazy how we hadn't spoken in years, but we both are on a similar track in life. We both memorized the Qur'an and had a humble knack for Islamic studies in our daily lives, both planned to pursue higher studies, and both had a sense of involvement in our mosques. Much of our conversations of the night focused on our activism within our respective Muslim communities. Surprisingly, as I would explain various challenges that I had faced as a youth activist, Murtaza would tell me his community is going through similar social issues. Whether it was youth programs, addressing social ills, communication gaps between the old and young, general outreach, and more, we found that both of our communities were in the same boat when it comes to Islamic activism. Though jokes and memories were part of our conversation for the night as well, neither of us shied away from asking tough questions about our own theological differences. As a Sunni, I was seeking answers to issues pertaining to the companions of the Prophet, Iran's importance as a religious head, and more, while his questions were more about historical differences, community development, and the Sunni perception of other Shias. These were just a few contentions we spoke about. We didn't debate; rather we had a dialogue over some pizza, sandwiches, and bubble tea. Though we both got our answers, we actually found something much more important than what we were seeking—we found realizations that can help our communities be more tolerant of each other.
- Sunnis and Shias both hold dozens of false misconceptions about each other which can be resolved through learning about the history of how the split happened. We avoid each other like the plague when there's no need for it—especially living in the United States. Both sides need to show ample respect and care for each other.
- Though Sunnis and Shias heavily disagree in theology and worship, there should be an ongoing intra-faith dialogue taking place. Yes, there are things which we obviously won't agree upon, but there are ways both groups can benefit each of their communities respectively. When there is room to work together to better everyone's situation equally, there should be a concerted joint effort to move forward.
- Both of our communities are going through almost the same, exact challenges. Whether it be social issues, mosque integration, cultural stigmas, youth integration, the struggle is literally mirrored. Most issues that affect us at the ground level are human issues, not religious. Religion steers the solutions, but a cocaine addict is not any better or worse if he is Sunni or Shia. He needs help like anyone else needs help.
- Just as most Sunnis do not ascribe to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the ultimate representative of Sunni Islam, similarly all Shias do not ascribe to the Ayatollah, twelver-Shiism, or Iran as representatives of their faith group. This means that the beliefs, theology, and ideology of Sunnism and Shiism is not respectively monolithic in the manner many media outlets portray them to be. There are many shades of gray in between.
- Politics motivate hate from the Sunni and Shia sides respectively. Most of the disdain we have comes from political ideologies which hijacked each denomination respectively. Much of our hate stems from atrocities which have happened to each of us from the extremist minorities in each group and their twisted ideology. Suicide bombings, political death squads, and “honor” killings have nothing to do with being Sunni or Shia, rather it goes back to an unstable political, economic, and social climate where these things are happening.
- With the declining amount of humanity left in human beings, we need to consider what ways we can preserve and cherish human lives. To have a conversation, both sides need to separate between religious tradition and politics, suppress emotions, and hear the other out. There is a lot to learn and accomplish if we simply start listening to each other and not succumb to the noise created by those who wish to see society eat itself out from the inside and let evil prevail.
Allen West is at it again, this is the type of incendiary rhetoric that leads to firebombing mosques.
Fox News contributor Allen West believes the Western world should respond to the Ottawa terrorist attack by shutting down “the mosques and Islamic Centers where these individuals are attending” and deporting the imams. West added that closing these places “of so-called worship” is “the only way we send a message into the Muslim communities” that we’re “not going to tolerate these snake pits of sedition.”
West was speaking on the October 23 edition of BlogTalkRadio’s REELTalk. Here’s his reaction to the Ottawa attack:
WEST: But I think, Audrey, the real thing that we’re going to have to do is the mosques and Islamic Centers where these individuals are attending, when they commit these acts, we gotta shut ‘em down. We have to send a message. The imam that’s at that mosque or Islamic Center is deported. That place of so-called worship, which is just proselytizing, you know, hate and violence, they have to be shut down. I think that’s the only way we send a message into the Muslim communities here in Western Civilization that we’re not going to tolerate it. We’re not going to tolerate these snake pits of sedition that are, you know, popping up all over the place.
We’re not saying, you know, we start shutting down mosques and Islamic Centers. But the ones who are feeding us these violent jihadists, they need to be the ones that are shut down. Like I said, the imams, the mullahs that are there running these mosques and centers, they need to be deported. Because we have to say, this is, you know, a zero-sum game. We’re not tolerating it.
West is an Islamophobe. He believes that “Islam is a totalitarian theocratic political ideology, it is not a religion. It has not been a religion since 622 AD, and we need to have individuals stand up and say that.” He attacked Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who is Muslim, as representing “the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established.”
The former Florida congressman has similarly claimed that “Barack Hussein Obama is an Islamist” and “I don’t understand where this president’s loyalties lie, and I have to ask the question, whose side is he on?”
Despite his long history of incendiary rhetoric, Republican candidates and organizations have been using West as a regular surrogate on the campaign trail.
(h/t: Abe A.)
ALBUQUERQUE — FBI agents and Albuquerque police investigated a Molotov cocktail thrown at a mosque in southeast Albuquerque Friday morning.
The device hit the exterior wall of the Islamic Center of New Mexico around 3:55 a.m. Friday, scorching a wall and leaving broken glass on the ground.
Several agencies responded to the Islamic Center to conduct an investigation, including the FBI and APD bomb squad personnel.
“I’m very disappointed something like this would happen here in Albuquerque,” said Jameela Abdul Halim, the assistant administrator at the Islamic Center.
The center’s janitor, Shakir Farid Abdullah, said he found the burnt bottle about five hours later, around 9 a.m. Abdullah said he feared the perpetrator assumes the mosque is affiliated with terrorist groups overseas.
“We believe in peace, nonviolence…we don’t support terrorism,” said Abdullah. “We don’t support any acts of violence against any religious group…so someone, obviously, is ignorant to that.”
The Molotov cocktail was apparently thrown at the section of the building dedicated to women and children. Friday is also the day hundreds of Muslims from across the area come to the mosque to pray. No one was injured, but the incident is still disturbing to those who attend the mosque.
“[We're] very grateful it didn’t go through the window. There was nobody around at the time; we didn’t have a lot of people,” said mosque member Abdul Halim.
This is not the first incident at the Islamic Center. According to mosque member Andy Brooks, people threw flaming Qurans into the mosque’s yard a couple years ago, and last year, someone walked into the Iman’s office and threatened him with a gun.
Also, this past February, a man approached two children on the mosque’s playground and allegedly threatened to stab them because he hated Muslims.
Members of the mosque say they’re going to invest more money on surveillance cameras.
The New Mexico Conference of Churches released a statement about the incident Friday afternoon:
“The New Mexico Conference of Churches is terribly distressed by the news that a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the Islamic Center of New Mexico this morning. Christians across our state reject such hate-based violence. We recognize our Muslim brothers and sisters as fellow children of God and as our neighbors whom we are called to love. We urge all people to resist hatred with compassion in order to build a new era of peace and goodwill. Our prayers are with the members of the Islamic Center and we offer any and all help at this time.”
U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) also issued a statement Friday evening:
“The news that a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the Islamic Center of New Mexico is deeply troubling. Acts of violence have no place in our society. The members of the Center and the entire Muslim community in New Mexico are in my thoughts.”
Police have yet to make an arrest. If you have any information regarding the suspect, contact police.
This is the third article in an exclusive Loonwatch series entitled, This is Africa. The previous article exposed some of the background conveniently left out of most media coverage as violence spiraled out of control in the Central African Republic.
This article delves into the historical roots of French colonial rule in the Central African Republic (CAR), and the ceaseless foreign intervention that has plagued the country ever since. This is the historical and geopolitical context that allows us to distinguish fact from fiction when confronted with misleading propaganda.
Following a familiar pattern established over decades, the latest round of violence provided cover for a cloak and dagger power grab, orchestrated by the usual suspects.Paving the Way
The French arrived in what is now CAR in 1885, and managed to consolidate their rule by the early 1900s. Prestigious French Investigative reporter Albert Londres traveled to colonial Africa in 1928 and relayed the horrors inflicted on the indigenous people through imperial conquest:
Forcibly seized in their villages, transported by river on barges built to carry animals, a quarter of them died before reaching Brazzaville [in present-day Republic of the Congo]. They were then forced to do all of the construction work practically without any tools, such as digging tunnels bare-handed under the whip of the “capitas” (village chieftains serving as overseers) without food and exposed to disease. And when they ran out of strength, Albert Londres testified, “I saw Saras, Zindes and Bayas, who no longer had the strength to work, walk into the forest to die” ~ (Terre d’Ebène).
The extraction of African wealth by African hands for French benefit necessarily required extreme brutality. In all, between 1890 and 1940, half the population perished from a combination of microbial shock and colonial violence.
Despite French brutality and ruthlessness, the survivors resisted.The Rebellion
With their ancestral way of life destroyed, their natural resources plundered, their labor exploited, and their population devastated, the people were further savaged by heavy taxes used to fund colonial infrastructure. This unbearable situation gave birth to the Kongo-Wara rebellion (1928-1931).
The movement urged black solidarity and called for direct action, including a boycott of European merchandise, and refusal to work for or pay taxes to colonial authorities. Rebels burned down police stations, government buildings, and private residences. They blocked roads, denying access to European colonials. Although there have been many rebellions against colonial rule in Africa, the Kongo-Wara (“War of the Hoe Handle”) spread beyond the village where it began in the Central African Republic, extending into parts of Cameroon, Chad, and Gabon. At its zenith, the movement had over 350,000 adherents, including an estimated 60,000 warriors. 
The rebellion was finally crushed in 1931. The last remaining pockets of resistance were extinguished in the “War of the Caves,” when French forces asphyxiated rebels with smoke. Direct colonial rule lasted another three decades until 1960, when the country achieved formal independence.The Ruse
“The drama of Africa is that the African man has not sufficiently entered into history.” ~ Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy
More than half a century has passed since the Central African Republic was declared an independent nation. Many people seem to think five decades is long enough to have recovered from colonial exploitation, and blame the people for their apparent failure to rise up from the ruins and build a stable, prosperous democracy.
Whether or not this is a reasonable expectation under the circumstances, the fact is colonialism never really ended. As explained in the first article in this series, the French Colonial Pact was merely a clever scheme to replace crude colonialism with a more sophisticated successor, neocolonialism. The transfer of wealth has continued to this day.
According to the International Monetary Fund, in 2013, France ranked 26th among all nations with a per capita GDP of nearly $40,000. The Central African Republic ranked dead last, with a per capita GDP of about $600.Plunder in Masquerade
In the wake of formal independence for African nations, the French wanted to achieve the same wealth transfer while avoiding the stench of old-fashioned colonial rule. Paris has consistently meddled in the governmental affairs of their “former” colonies, installing and deposing African leaders to ensure French interests always come first.
As we shall see, when puppet regimes start showing signs of independence or are no longer useful, they must be overthrown and replaced. If “regime change” cannot be achieved by rigged elections or a facilitated coup, objectives much be achieved by other means. A pretext must be found (or manufactured) to justify whatever must be done to restore “order and stability” (translation: organized theft).A Mysterious Death
Barthélemy Boganda served as prime minister of the Central African Republic Autonomous Territory leading up to independence. A nationalist who openly opposed racism and colonialism, he had formed grassroots opposition to French colonial rule. He might have become the first president, except that Boganda was killed in a mysterious plane crash in 1959, just before the country’s first election.
Instead, David Dacko became the first president of the Central African Republic in 1960, with the active French support.The China Threat
Dacko tread the fine line between pleasing his French masters and convincing his constituents he was not a French puppet. In an apparent effort to display his independence after his first few years in office, he made a perilous mistake by cultivating closer relations with China.
Foreshadowing events that would take place decades later, Dacko was overthrown in a French-backed coup and replaced by Jean-Bédel Bokassa.Emperor Bokassa
Within days of seizing power, Bokassa broke off relations with Beijing and expelled Chinese advisers.
Bokassa was a distinguished veteran of the French war in Indochina with close ties to France. He enjoyed private Air France flights to dine in Paris and acquired a palatial chateau while his people starved under brutal oppression. In 1975, the French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing declared himself a “friend and family member” of Emperor Bokassa.
An admirer of Napoleon Bonaparte and an egomaniac fond of bestowing illustrious titles upon himself, Bokassa declared himself emperor of the “Central African Empire” during the last two years of his rule. Paris congratulated him and the French government helped finance a lavish coronation at an estimated cost of $30 million–in a small, impoverished country where most people did not have access to potable water.
Emperor Bokassa used the country’s diamonds to pay mercenaries and French politicians, and in exchange, the French backed a psychopathic murderer.
But the French later soured on Bokassa as his extravagance drew growing opposition from his subjects, his behavior became increasingly erratic, and his bids for greater independence in foreign affairs became more frequent.
In 1979, he gave the French the pretext they needed to depose him. His regime arrested and tortured more than 100 student protesters, many of whom were eventually murdered under Bokassa’s personal supervision. Though Paris had supported him through many of his worst atrocities, the French demonized their former ally, spreading lurid tales accusing him of engaging various crimes, including cannibalism–a widely rumored allegation that was never proven.
French paratroopers overthrew Bokassa while he was visiting Libya, and reinstalled David Dacko as president.Kleptocrat Roulette
Dacko’s second term as president lasted only briefly. Under pressure from a virulent opposition led by Ange-Félix Patassé, he handed power over to the military, asking Paris not to intervene. Dacko had effectively consented to a bloodless coup led by André Kolingba.
Kolingba was another kleptocrat and brutal dictator, and like Bokassa before him, enjoyed close relations with Paris. Kolingba’s rule lasted until the fall of the Berlin Wall, which signaled the end of the Cold War and brought increased pressure to hold democratic elections.
Facing mounting pressure, France assisted in organizing the elections, which brought Dacko’s arch rival, Ange-Félix Patassé, to office in 1993.
Before leaving office, Kolingba pardoned Emperor Bokassa, who had spent 7 years in jail after being sentenced to death for numerous crimes, including treason, murder, illegal use of property, assault and battery, and embezzlement. A few years later, André Kolingba would himself be sentenced to death for masterminding a failed coup attempt against Patassé. Kolingba was later pardoned, in yet another display of incestuous political corruption.
Patassé was re-elected again in 1999, though his rule was characterized by corruption, political intrigue, ethnic tensions, religious protests, and murders. Nevertheless, he enjoyed French support and managed to stave off at least a half dozen coup attempts during his 10-year rule.
Then he made a mistake that would prove perilous. He began to criticize Paris’ role in the country and to speak out against French exploitation of the country’s resources. Shortly thereafter, he was deposed in a French-backed coup by veteran military strongman François Bozizé. Despite international condemnation, the elected president was never restored to power.
From 1977 to 1979, Bozizé had served as army chief of staff under Emperor Bokassa. Bozizé described Emperor Bokassa, a brutal dictator and convicted criminal, as “a son of the nation recognized by all as a great builder.” As mentioned previously, his predecessor, André Kolingba, had pardoned Bokassa, freeing him from jail, along with numerous other political prisoners. Bozizé further watered down Bokassa’s punishment by issuing a rehabilitation decree to “erase penal condemnations, particularly fines and legal costs, and [stop] any future incapacities that result from them.”
Bozizé himself would later face charges of “crimes against humanity and incitement to genocide.”Dacko Redux
François Bozizé’s presidency lasted 10 years, during which he enjoyed warm relations with the French. Then, like so many others before him, he began showing signs of independence in foreign affairs. Like CAR’s first president David Dacko, Bozizé made the perilous mistake of cozying up to China, and like David Dacko in his first presidency, Bozizé was soon deposed.
The political intrigue that surrounded the ouster of Bozizé is the subject of the next article.