The Origin And Evolution Of The Taraweeh Prayer

Muslim Matters - 1 April, 2024 - 17:35

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims worldwide engage in a special night prayer known as Taraweeh. In this article, I will delve into the history of this practice.

As Muslims, we perform the obligatory five daily prayers, with the last one being the Isha prayer. However, we are also encouraged to engage in additional night prayers. While these night prayers are considered voluntary, they are highly recommended.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) praises devout believers, describing them as those who pray at night, seeking forgiveness in the hours just before dawn, known as the sahr hours. In the Quran, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) said:

“They arise from [their] beds; they supplicate their Lord in fear and aspiration, and from what We have provided them, they spend.” [Surah As-Sajdah: 32;16]

And further Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) said:

“They used to sleep but little of the night. And in the hours before dawn they would ask forgiveness.” [Surah Adh-Dhariyat: 51;17-18]

The Messenger’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) Night Prayers

The Messenger of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), peace be upon him, consistently engaged in night prayers. He typically prayed alone rather than in congregation (Jama’ah). Occasionally, he would come out to the mosque, and on such occasions, people might join him. There is a hadith that reports Ibn Abbas sleeping over at the house of the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and joining him in a night prayer. Some of the Sahaba also used to join Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in night prayers whenever they witnessed him praying in the mosque.

عَنْ أَبي عبدِ الله حُذيفةَ بنِ اليمان، رضي اللهُ عنهما قال: صَلَّيتُ مع النَّبيِّ صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّم ذاتَ ليلةٍ، فافتتح البقرةَ، فقلتُ يركعُ عند المائة، ثم مضَى فقلتُ يصلِّي بها في ركعةٍ، فمَضَى، فقلتُ يركعُ بها، ثم افتتح النساءَ: فقرأها، ثمَّ افتتحَ آل عمرانَ فقرأها، يقرأُ مترسلًا، إذا مرَّ بآيةٍ فيها تسبيحٌ سبَّحَ، وإذا مرَّ بسؤالٍ سألَ، وإذا مرَّ بتعوذٍ تعوَّذَ، ثم ركع فجعلَ يقولُ: « سبحانَ ربي العظيم» فكان ركوعه نحوًا من قيامه، ثم قال: «سمع اللهُ لمن حمِدَه، ربنا ولك الحمد» ثم قام قيامًا قريبًا مما ركع، ثم سجد فقال: «سبحان ربي الأعلى» فكان سجوده قريبًا من قيامه. رواه مسلم.

Hudaifa ibn Alyaman said I prayed one night with the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. The Prophet started reciting al-Baqarah and I thought he would stop after 100 verses. But when he went beyond it I thought that he may want to recite the whole chapter in one Rakah. When he finished al-Baqarah I thought he would do Ruku but then he immediately started reciting al-Imran and when he finished he started reciting an-Nisa.

The Prophet was reciting very slowly with enough pauses and would do Tasbeeh (praising God) and Dua (supplication) according to the subject being discussed in the relevant Ayah.

After that the Prophet did Ruku. In Ruku he stayed as long as he did when he was in Qiyam (standing in prayer). After Ruku he stood up for almost the same time and then he performed Sajdah (prostration) and stayed there as long as he recited Quran while doing Qiyam.”

[Hudaifa raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), narrated this hadith as in Sahih al Muslim]

Night Prayers in Ramadan at the Time of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)

During the era of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), in Ramadan and after the Isha prayer, there was no unified congregation prayer. Muslims had the flexibility to either pray night prayer at home or in the masjid. It was reported in a Hadith, that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), used to encourage them to stand in prayers in Ramadan without strongly ordering them to do so, he ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Whoever performs Ramadan out of faith and seeking reward from Allah, his previous sins will be forgiven.” [Sahih al-Bukhari 1901]

Abu Salamah ibn ‘Abd ar-Rahmaan, said he asked ‘Aa’ishah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her): “‘How did the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) pray during Ramadan?’ She said: ‘He did not pray in Ramadan or at any other time, more than eleven Rakat. He would pray four, and do not ask how beautiful and long they were. Then he would pray four, and do not ask how beautiful and long they were. Then he would pray three Rakat.’” [Sahih; Sunan an-Nasa’i 1697]

So Muslims used to pray Isha and after that there was no one unified congregation prayer. Some used to go home and pray there, some would sleep and wake up again to pray at either their home or in the masjid.

This practice remained until one night during Ramadan before the death of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), he came out and prayed the night prayer at the Masjid.  Some Companions joined him in that night prayer. However, after a few nights, he didn’t come out to them as narrated by A’isha raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her). Once in the middle of the night the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), went out and prayed in the mosque and some men prayed with him. The next morning the people spoke about it and so more people gathered and prayed with him. They circulated the news in the morning, and so, on the third night the number of people increased greatly. The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), came out and they prayed behind him. On the fourth night, the mosque was overwhelmed by the people until it could not accommodate them. The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) came out only for the Fajr prayer and when he finished the prayer, he faced the people and said, “I knew about your presence, but I was afraid that this prayer might be made compulsory and you might not be able to carry it out.” The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) died and the matter remained the same. [Sahih al-Bukhari 2012]

This cautious approach was consistent with the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) habit of sometimes leaving certain good deeds, even though he loved them, fearing they might become compulsory for the people. As it was narrated by A’isha, that “Allah’s Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) used to give up a good deed, although he loved to do it, for fear that people might act on it and it might be made compulsory for them.” [Sahih al-Bukhari 1128]

So what he ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) did in Ramadan was a continuation of that habit. He ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) did not continue praying so it wouldn’t be compulsory upon the people.

How Many Rakat Did the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) Pray at Night?

As mentioned in a previous hadith by A’isha raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her), the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) used to pray eight Rakats both in Ramadan and outside of it. This practice is further affirmed by a narration from Jabir bin Abdullah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), who specifically mentioned the number of Rakat that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) prayed in Ramadan. Jabir Bin Abdullah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said that “the Prophet ﷺ led us in prayer in Ramadan eight Rakat then on the following night we gathered but he did not come out to us till morning.  When he was asked he said ‘I was afraid it would be written upon you,’ meaning it would become compulsory upon you.”

Night Prayers After the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) Death

After the passing of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), people continued to pray night prayers either individually or in separate groups.  

This pattern continued during the time of Abu Bakr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), and the early time of Omar, may Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) be pleased with him.

First Taraweeh at the Time of Omar Ibn Al-Khattab raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) Taraweeh

PC: Salman Preeom (unsplash)

The decision of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) not to gather people under one Imam for night prayers, fearing its potential obligation on the Ummah, no longer applied after his death. With the establishment of the Sharia, this concern ceased to exist. Omar ibn Al-Khattab raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) recognized this change in circumstances and, as a result, initiated the congregational Taraweeh prayer under one imam.

This decision marked a significant shift from the previous practice. The rationale behind the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) caution was no longer applicable, paving the way for the community to come together under a single Imam for the Taraweeh prayers during the time of Omar ibn Al-Khattab raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him).

Al-Bukhaari narrated from ‘Abd ar-Rahmaan ibn ‘Abd al-Qaari’ that he said: ‘I went out with ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (may Allah be pleased with him) one night in Ramadan to the mosque, where we saw the people in scattered groups, one man praying by himself, and another man praying with a group of people following his prayer. ‘Umar said: “I think that if I unite these people behind one reciter, it will be better.” Then he decided to do that, so he united them behind Ubayy ibn Ka‘b.’ [Sahih al-Bukhari 2010]

Imam Attabary, mentioned in his history book, that this happened in the Year 14H around 636 A.D. Then Omar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) sent a letter to other towns asking them to pray night prayers under one Imam in the mosques. 

Was Taraweeh Invented by Omar?

There might be a misconception among some that Taraweeh prayer was established by Omar ibn Al-Khattab raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him). However, it is crucial to clarify that Taraweeh was initiated by the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

After the passing of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), the initial concern of Taraweeh becoming obligatory no longer existed. 

Omar ibn Al-Khattab raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), recognizing this change, gathered the people under one Imam for Taraweeh prayers. This action did not invent the prayer itself but rather organized the community in congregational worship.

The term Taraweeh, derived from the Arabic word “Tarweeh,” meaning ‘rest’, likely came into use during or after the era of Omar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him).  Unfortunately, I was not able to find solid evidence of when the usage of the term Taraweeh began. 

The names for voluntary night prayers as used in the Quran and hadith are called night prayer (Salat al-Layl), Tahajjud, Qiyam, or Qiyam Ramadan. Taraweeh is the plural of the Arabic word Tarweeh, meaning rest. Worshippers used to engage in extended Rakat and take breaks in between, giving rise to the name Taraweeh.

How Many Rakat Did Muslims Pray at the Time of Omar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)?

It was narrated by Imam Malik in his Book al-Moata, that Sayeb ibn Yazeed said that Omar Ibn Al-Khattab raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) ordered Obai Ibn Kaab and Tamim Ad-Dary to lead people with 11 Rakat.  He said the Qari (Imam) used to read 100’s of Ayat and we used to lean on sticks because the standing would be too long and we used to leave at Fajr time

جاء في موطأ مالك: عن محمد بن يوسف عن السائب بن يزيد أنه قال:” أمر عمر بن الخطاب أبي بن كعب وتميماً الداري أن يقوما للناس بإحدى عشرة ركعة ” قال:” وقد كان القارئ يقرأ بالمئين حتى كنا نعتمد على العصيّ من طول القيام وما كنا ننصرف إلا في بزوغ الفجر “.

Yet in another narration by Abdlrazaq it was said that that Omar Ibn Al-Khattab raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) unified the prayer under Obai Ibn Kaab and Tamim Ad-Dary on 21 Rakat and used to read 100’s of Ayat and used to leave at Fajr time

أخرج عبد الرزاق في مصنفه عن داود بن قيس وغيره، عن محمد بن يوسف عن السائب بن يزيد أن عمر جمع الناس في رمضان على أبي بن كعب، وعلى تميم الداري على إحدى وعشرين ركعة يقرأون بالمئين وينصرفون عند بزوغ الفجر

ولمالك في الموطأ عن يزيد بن رومان قال: “كان الناس في زمن عمر يقومون في رمضان بثلاث وعشرين ركعة” 

In his book Taraweeh Prayer, Mohamed Diyurahman al-Aazami, said: “The more authentic narration is that Omar ordered Obai Ibn Kaat to lease people with prayer eight Rakat, this is confirmed with the action of the Prophet, peace be upon him.”

It appears from various narrations that initially, Ubayy ibn Ka’b began leading the congregation with eight Rakat. However, over time, they increased the number to twenty Rakat. 

While the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) himself prayed eight Rakat, there is no record of him prohibiting people from praying more. This flexibility in the number of Rakat is evident in the practices of the Sahaba and the first three generations of Muslims, as indicated by the below hadith.

Ibn Umar narrated that once a person asked the Messenger of Allah about the night prayer. He replied, “The night prayer is offered as two Rakat followed by two Rakat and so on and if anyone is afraid of the approaching dawn (Fajr prayer) he should pray one Raka and this will be a Witr for all the Rakat which he has prayed before. [Sahih al-Bukhari 990]

As of this hadith, the night prayer should be offered on two Rakat followed by two Rakat without specification for a limited number.

From Eight to Twenty

The Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) initially involved praying eight Rakat during the Night Prayer, and these were notably long prayers. However, as the length of the eight Rakat became challenging for some people, a shift occurred towards praying more Rakat with shorter recitations.

Contrary to a common modern misconception that eight Rakat is shorter and easier than twenty, historical evidence suggests that the initial understanding was different. Dawood Ibn Al-Husain heard the Aaraj saying: The Imam used to pray Surah al-Baqarah in eight Rakat. If the Imam spread the recitation over twelve Rakat, people perceived it as a lightening of the prayers.

عن داود بن الحصين أنه سمع الأعرج يقول: وكان القارئ يقرأ سورة البقرة في ثمان ركعات، فإذا قام بها في اثنتي عشرة ركعة رأى الناس أنه قد خفف

The essence of following the Sunnah is not merely in adhering to a specific number, but, more importantly, in replicating the profound length and devotion exemplified by the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). It’s crucial to understand that the Sunnah is about offering eight Rakat with substantial length rather than merely completing eight short Rakat.

During the time of Umar ibn al-Khattab raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), the number of Rakat increased from eight to twenty, not as an attempt to supersede the Sunnah but to accommodate the people’s needs. This adjustment aimed to make the prayers more manageable by introducing shorter Rakat and intervals between them. The name “Taraweeh” itself is derived from the rest or break between these prayers, emphasizing the thoughtful consideration given to the worshipers’ comfort and convenience.

Taraweeh in Makkah and Madina Taraweeh in Makkah

Makkah (PC: Izuddin Helmi (unsplash)

In the early days, the people of Madina and Makkah both observed Taraweeh prayers with twenty Rakat, taking a break after every four Rakat. However, a unique tradition emerged in Makkah, where during the breaks, worshippers would perform Tawaf around the Ka’abah. Seeking to match this special practice, the people of Madina increased the number of Rakat to thirty-six, replacing the four times of Tawaf with an additional four Rakat for each Tawaf. Imam Nawawi and other scholars have documented this historical development.

Imam Shafi said “I have seen the people of Madina praying thirty-nine Rakat and people of Makkah twenty-three Rakat. All these are fine.” He also said, “If they made the standing longer and Rakat less, this is fine. If they made the Rakat more and the recitation lighter that is also good but the first option is more beloved to me.”

By this time, the common practice across major Islamic cities was to pray twenty Rakat, with the exception of Madinah, where they observed thirty-six Rakat during Taraweeh, and other exceptions where people prayed more or less than twenty Rakat.

Beautiful Voices

Muslims have historically shown a preference for praying behind Imams endowed with beautiful voices and deep concentration in their prayers.

The imams of Taraweeh prayers were not only Hafiz (those who memorized the Quran) but often distinguished scholars and judges. Renowned figures such as Imam Attabary, a great scholar of Tafsir, Imam al-Qurtubi, Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, and other eminent scholars were known for leading Taraweeh prayers.

In his book “The History of Baghdad,” Alkhateeb al-Baghdadi narrates an incident where Ibn Mujahid, upon hearing Imam Attabari lead Taraweeh in his mosque in Baghdad, remarked to his student, “I didn’t even know that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) would create someone who reads so perfectly.”

Historian Ibn al-Wardi said: “I prayed Taraweeh behind Ibn Taymmiyya and have seen in his recitation such khushu (devotion) and heartfelt emotion that encompasses the hearts.”

Numerous historians and Muslim travelers who journeyed across the world documented the voices of Taraweeh Imams. For instance, al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar, in his book “The Hidden Pearls of the Noble People of the 8th Century,” mentioned Shamsu Deen Azzary Ibn al-Basal al-Muqri, and said about him  “He was with a very nice voice and many People would come to him to pray behind him during Taraweeh prayers, and they would crowd in his mosque.

Recent Era

In recent times, a noticeable shift has occurred in Taraweeh prayers, with many Muslims worldwide still observing twenty Rakat. However, there was a notable trend where the length of individual Rakat has become incredibly short, often consisting of just one verse of the Quran. Makkah maintained the tradition of twenty Rakat, but with multiple groups praying simultaneously. Some historians even mention four separate congregations in Makkah, each facing the Ka’bah from a different direction.

In Madina, the practice continued with thirty-six Rakat, occasionally led by multiple Imams and groups simultaneously. This persisted until the Saudi government assumed control of Makkah and Madina, unifying the prayers under one Imam. The Taraweeh prayers were also standardized to twenty Rakat in both holy Mosques.

Across the Muslim world, many mosques adhere to the tradition of twenty Rakat, while others continue with eight Rakat. The variations reflect the diversity of practices among different communities.

Ibn Taymiyyah said “The best approach varies according to the conditions of the worshippers. If they have the endurance for prolonged standing, then performing ten Rakat with three additional ones, just as the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, used to pray for himself in Ramadan and at other times, is considered optimal. However, if they find it challenging, then praying twenty Rakat is better, and this aligns with the practice followed by the majority of Muslims.”

The history of Taraweeh prayer reflects the devotion of Muslim communities and their commitment to do extra night prayers. As we engage in Taraweeh during the blessed month of Ramadan, let us cherish the rich history and traditions that have shaped this special act of worship. May our prayers be a source of reflection, forgiveness, and spiritual growth, embodying the spirit of unity and devotion that has characterized Taraweeh throughout the centuries.



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The Long Road To Muslim Bangsamoro: 10 Years On

Muslim Matters - 1 April, 2024 - 09:21

It has been a half-century since one of the most remarkable struggles for autonomy by a Muslim minority began, in what is now the Philippines’ southwestern region of Mindanao. Long inhabited by a collection of Muslim ethnic groups known collectively as Moros, this region had a history of Muslim autonomy and fierce resistance to outsiders. Its controversial affixation to the Philippines, and a general history of neglect that mounted by the 1970s to violent persecution, provoked a long-running war punctuated by bouts of diplomacy, frequent splinters, fallouts, and renewed conflict. The Manila Accord, signed ten years ago this month, at last afforded an effective if imperfect autonomy to the Muslim region now known as Bangsamoro, or Land of the Moros.


Situated on the eastern perimeter of the Muslim world as it is, the Moro struggle has rarely received the attention it deserves. Like much of eastern Asia, various ethnic groups in the region converted to Islam gradually through the influence of wandering preachers and merchants, so that by the fifteenth century several maritime Muslim sultanates had emerged. Over the course of the next few centuries, they had trade relations with their neighbors interspersed with conflict, but from the nineteenth century successive colonial empires entered the region, each met with local resistance. First was the Spanish Empire, who coined the term “Moro” – ironically from the Spanish “Moor”, used for North Africans at the opposite western end of the Muslim world; last was the Japanese Empire during the Second World War. And in between was the nascent American Empire, fresh off defeating Spain in the Philippines. Early conviviality, brokered by the Ottoman sultanate, soon escalated into hostility, local resistance, and a ruthless decade-long war, where the famed American generalissimo John Pershing cut his teeth. In their first war on land against a Muslim opponent, so unnerved were the American army by their opponents’ ferocity on the battlefield that they sought to combat the Muslim belief in martyrdom by, infamously, burying their opponents with dead pigs.

Subsequent Moro opposition to the Japanese Empire thereafter saw their terrain lumped in with the Philippines, a country that took pride in being East Asia’s only Christian country. Reflecting colonial education, early Philippine elites saw the province’s poverty as a sign of Muslim backwardness and generally dealt only with a select Muslim aristocracy that, in turn, sought to protect its own privileges. Manila also promoted land settlement by Christians from the Philippine mainland who came to exchange predatory deals with the Moro elites at the cost of Moro society at large.

A Fight for Survival

The generally accepted trigger for the Moro revolt came in the spring of 1968, when a Philippine army battalion – led, ironically, by a Muslim convert, Abdul-Latif Martelino – slaughtered Muslim recruits who refused to fight in a territorial dispute over the neighboring Sabah region of Malaysia. This was followed by gang warfare, partly linked to competing political elites, where the Philippine army systemically backed murderous thugs of Christian background to go on killing sprees: one infamous case in the summer of 1971 saw families butchered in a mosque.

This outraged Moro society such that even elites such as Udtug Matalam and Rashid Lucman called for political change if not revolt. Malaysia was similarly annoyed: it was no coincidence that Sabah premier Mustafa Harun, whose land was threatened by the Philippines, began to train Moro fighters, while former Malaysian prime minister Abdul-Rahman bin Abdul-Hamid used his forum at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to bring attention to the Moros. Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddhafi, then in an early Islamic phase of his long and evolving career, was a particularly influential early supporter, calling the conflict a genocide and lending financial and diplomatic support. The Organization has since attracted legitimate criticism for its somnolence, but in those early days it was quite active on the Moro file.

But by far the longest-lasting call for change came from local Moros, including student activists, peasants, and Islamic students. Reflecting a mixture of populism, Islamic identity, and popular culture, insurgents took on roving nicknames as varied as “Solitario”, “Mukhtar”, and “Tony Falcon”. Insurgent leaders included Nur Misuari, a charismatic activist from Sulu, and Salamat Hashim, an Islamic revivalist from Maguindanao who sought to match political and Islamic resurgence. In autumn 1972 – as Ferdinand Marcos imposed emergency rule over the Philippines to become a dictator – Misuari launched the Moro National Liberation Front, which called for independence and engaged in fierce warfare with Marcos’ army over the mid-1970s. Infamously, in February 1974 the army destroyed the historic town Jolo, while such provinces as Cotabato and Maguindanao became constant battlefields. But insurgent resilience and pressure by Muslim states forced Marcos to the 1976 Tripoli Accord, mediated by Libyan foreign minister, which vaguely promised autonomy and Islamic law.

The Costs of Division

Yet Marcos stalled, instead trying to break up the opposition and coopt local elites. In many cases commanders would surrender in return for protecting their communities from the army by acting as local militias; in other cases it was pure opportunism. From the late 1970s a number of senior commanders broke away: Abulkhair Alonto and Jamil “Junglefox” Lucman, both from aristocratic families, defected from the insurgency, while Dimasangcay Pundato and Salamat, unhappy with Misuari’s leadership, broke away. Salamat’s Moro Islamic Liberation Front was by far the more influential: with a stronger emphasis on Islamic social renewal and embedding local ties than Misuari’s loosely organized group, it soon attracted a mass following that continues to this day.


Left to right: Murad Ibrahim, emir of Bangsamoro and the Islamic Front; Nur Misuari, leader of the National Front and former regional premier; and Muslimin Sema, another independence leader. [Photo by Carolyn Arguillas for Mindanews]

While the war did not return to the ferocity of the mid-1970s, the 1980s and 1990s saw on-and-off conflict interspersed with negotiations. The overthrow of Marcos in 1986 promised a brighter future, yet Hashim’s Islamists – by now the biggest rebel group – were excluded from talks. Eventually, an autonomous Muslim region was formed in 1990, with Zacaria Candao, a politician acceptable to both the Islamists and the government, as its premier. Eventually Misuari, after signing an Indonesian-mediated deal in 1996, returned from the wilderness as Muslim premier, subsequently proving a poorer governor than rebel.

Only part of the Muslim-majority region was included in the autonomy deal, while the Islamic Front lacked formal recognition in spite of their strength on the ground. The Islamists’ system of camps and bases were really sprawling communities, with public services, education, and a fairly disciplined military and security apparatus: Salamat and his main lieutenants, Murad Ibrahim and Abdul-Aziz Mimbantas, were as much respected community leaders as commanders. Continued exclusion prompted some militants to form more brutal groups: one example was the Janjalani brothers Abdul-Raziq and Khadaffy, whose network mounted a series of massacres and atrocities that ran quite separate to, but occasionally attracted defectors from, the main Islamic Front.

War and Peace

During the late 1990s, the Islamic Front engaged in a mixture of battles and negotiations with governments: battles would often be accompanied by tortuous negotiations between government officials and the Islamic Front’s foreign minister Ghazali Jafar. The talks were at an advanced stage when, at the turn of the millennium, the impatient ruler Joseph Estrada, a former actor who lacked statesmanship, announced an “all-out war”. By July 2000 the army had captured the Islamists’ headquarters at Barira, yet this only provoked a long-running insurgency, during which Salamat passed away and was replaced with Murad.

The Philippine government tried with limited success to frame its campaign as part of the “war on terror” – helped, inadvertently, by the continued violence of the Janjalani network – yet by the late 2000s it was obvious that talks should resume. A renewed agreement on autonomy in 2008 was promptly thrown out, under pressure from Christian politicians, by the Philippine Supreme Court. The war was complicated, meanwhile, by violence and criminality from communities and families linked to both the government and its opposition. Though the Islamic Front enhanced its internal discipline during Murad’s leadership, disconsolate commanders – most famously veteran field commander Umbra Cato – rejected the talks and broke away. Misuari, sacked as premier in 2001, subsequently organized two attacks, first at his hometown Jolo, and then, a decade later in 2013, on the bigger city of Zamboanga. Even the heir of the Sulu sultanate, the first Moro sultanate based at Jolo, surfaced at Malaysia’s adjacent Sabah region to lay claim to their title.

It was against this backdrop that Malaysian diplomat Abdul-Ghafar Mohammad resumed mediation with increased urgency. The Islamic Front was represented by Mohagher Iqbal, a veteran writer and diplomat for the Islamists, while the government was represented by the academic Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, who withstood considerable criticism to accommodate an insurgency whose grievances she felt were legitimate. The Manila Accord they signed in the spring of 2014 put the Muslim-majority region under Bangsamoro, with the Islamic Front as governing authority while the army would remain for an interim period.

That period expired in 2019, and Bangsamoro has been ruled by Murad Ibrahim since. There have been loose ends, particularly during the transitional period of 2014-19: in 2017, most infamously, the Janjalanis’ roving successor Isnilon Hapilon joined Daesh and laid a six-month siege to the city of Marawi. The Islamic Front, whose security warnings had been neglected by Manila, was embarrassed enough to actively target dissidents themselves, provoking criticism by Cato’s successors for working alongside the non-Muslim government forces. Like the splinter groups of the 1980s, these small militias have been a headache, operating deep in the undergrowth and often supported by their communities for localized reasons. Such problems are predictable, both owing to the long conflict and the decentralized nature and local disputes in the region.

Yet in spite of these hurdles, the transitional phase passed and today Bangsamoro is an autonomous, if imperfect, region: officially linked with the Philippines, it runs its own institutions, law, military and security, and public services. Amid the torrent of dispiriting news often associated with the repression of Muslim politics and militancy, the Bangsamoro tale offers uplifting lessons. It is notable that foreign Muslim states played an unusually helpful role that is not often afforded to other Muslim militants; it is notable, too, that the Philippine government reformed its worst instincts and eventually opted for a more sensible course. But none of this could have happened without the perseverance, societal renewal, and resolve of the Moro peoples.



Quran Speaks Interviews Dr Wajid Akhter: Why Islamic History Matters

A Dollar or a Dua for the Philippines


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What a teacher in hiding can tell us about our failure to tackle intolerance | Kenan Malik

The Guardian World news: Islam - 31 March, 2024 - 09:00

A class about free speech was cynically exploited by activists to incite fury in a local community

Three years ago, on 25 March 2021, a teacher from Batley Grammar School (BGS) in West Yorkshire was forced into hiding after a religious studies class he gave led to protests from Muslim parents and to death threats. Today, that incident has been largely forgotten. Except by the teacher. He can’t forget it because, extraordinarily, he and his family are still in hiding. Equally extraordinarily, little is said about this.

The debate about the events at BGS, like many about Islam, blasphemy and offence, has been framed by two polarised arguments. Many on the reactionary right (and not just the reactionary right) view such confrontations as the unacceptable price of mass immigration and the inevitable product of a Muslim presence in western societies. Many liberals and radicals, on the other hand, think it morally wrong to cause offence, believing that for diverse societies to function, there is a need to self-censor so as not to disrespect different cultures and beliefs. Neither argument bears much scrutiny. The most comprehensive account of the events at BGS comes in a review published last week by Sara Khan, the government’s independent adviser on “social cohesion and resilience”. The lesson that sparked the controversy was designed, ironically, to explore issues of blasphemy and free speech, and of appropriate ways of responding to religious disagreements.

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Standing At The Divine Window: A Glimpse Of Eternity In The Serenity Of Salah

Muslim Matters - 30 March, 2024 - 16:10
The Window in the Prison

We live in a world where windows are more than mere glass: they are silent witnesses to our deepest dreams. Time and time again, our films and literature, across eras and genres, capture characters gazing longingly toward the sky or horizon. Their gazes transcend the mere act of outwardly observing the tapestry of this world. They’re caught lost in the pursuit of something greater. 

“The world is a prison for a believer,”1 our beloved Prophet and Messenger ﷺ tells us. And who understands the blessing of the small window in the encaging walls better than the prisoner, who overlooks the world outside from within? For a prisoner, the austere cell whispers tales of tangible isolation and confinement. Somber realities nestle within the barren walls that have never known the comfort of warmth. Inside, time takes on a rhythm entirely its own as the prisoner paces across the bare floor to break the stillness of the prison room. Life here is reduced to its most fundamental essence.

And yet, the small window frame is a sliver of the world beyond—a sliver of hope to temporarily appease a soul yearning for a freedom that lies just beyond the prisoner’s grasp. Through it, the prisoner can taste light, witness the passing of night and day, spring to winter, and hear a distant symphony of voices. Through it, the prisoner sees the passing of time, which means holding on just a little longer. Resilience is born in the grimmest of spaces as long as there’s a sliver of light. 

To the Muslim, the vastness of the earth mirrors the cold, confining walls of a prison cell. The pleasures of this world are but faint, fleeting echoes of Paradise. Countless times we reach for the pleasures of this world, only to realize they’re mere mirages eluding our grasp. 

The Return Home

As humans, we’re forever searching to return home. Yet many spend lifetimes without ever understanding where “home” truly lies. Instead, as sloppily as a child building a gingerbread house, we construct fragile illusions of “home,” only to end up unsatisfied before leaving them behind. Home lies in a realm that transcends the limitations of human experience. In the words of the King of kings ﷻ,

“this worldly life is not but diversion and amusement. And indeed, the home of the Hereafter – that is the [eternal] life, if only they knew.” [Surah Al-Ankabut: 29;64]

prayer window

Sweetness of salah [PC: Sinan Toy (unsplash)]

Humans are prisoners awaiting their return home, with a window that opens up for us five times a day out of the mercy of Allah ﷻ, for those who know and believe. The homes of this world, made of brick and mortar, pale in comparison to the homes of the Hereafter. Our Beloved Messenger ﷺ said, Paradise is built from “bricks of silver and gold, its mortar is musk of strong fragrance, its pebbles are pearls and rubies, and its soil is saffron. Whoever enters it will enjoy bliss without despair and eternity without death. Their clothes will not fade, nor will their youth expire.”2 For the believers, their homes reside in the “Gardens of Eternity; beneath them rivers will flow; they will be adorned therein with bracelets of gold, and they will wear green garments of fine silk and heavy brocade: They will recline therein on raised thrones. How good the recompense! How beautiful a couch to recline on!”3 For “those who fear their Lord will have high rooms upon rooms built under which rivers flow. [This is] the promise of Allah. Allah does not fail in [His] promise.”4

In His infinite mercy, Allah ﷻ has given the believer a window—a spiritual escape from the confines of this worldly prison. Five times a day, He ﷻ invites us to stand in prayer before Him ﷻ, allowing us to linger at this window of transcendence for as long as we want, to gaze upon the divine and converse with our Lord ﷻ. In His infinite wisdom and compassion, five times a day, He ﷻ offers us a temporary escape, to catch a whiff of the sweet fragrances of the Gardens of our homes in Jannah (Paradise). The pillar of prayer in the Islamic tradition is a gift to us from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) brought by our beloved Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) after his journey to heaven on the Night of Ascension, the Night of Al-Isra Wal-Mi’raj. He ﷺ said, “When you get up to pray, perform ablution perfectly, then face the qiblah and say: ‘Allāhu Akbar’ (Allāh is Greater). Then recite a convenient portion of the Qur’ān; then bow and remain calmly in that position for a moment, then rise up and stand erect; then prostrate and remain calmly in that position for a moment; then rise up and sit calmly; then prostrate and remain calmly in that position for a moment; then do that throughout your prayer.” [Reported by as-Sab’a and the wording is that of al-Bukhari]

The Fruits of Worship

We offer our prayers to our Lord ﷻ, but it is we who reap the rewards and benefit. God does not need to see us stand at the window. He ﷻ knows our need for it, and so He commanded it. Every command from Allah ﷻ bears fruit for the believer. Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, a prolific Islamic scholar wrote,

“The fruit of fasting is the purification of the soul. The fruit of zakah (obligatory alms) is the purification of wealth. The fruit of Hajj (pilgrimage) is forgiveness. The fruit of jihad (fighting is submitting the soul) is that Allah has purchased from his servants their lives and their properties in exchange for Paradise. The fruit of salah (prayer) is the turning of the servant upon his Lord and the facing of Allah given to His servant. However, embarking towards Allah with complete devotion in salah encompasses all the aforementioned fruits because the fruits of all good deeds are found when the ‘abd embarks toward Allah with true devotion.”5

He ﷻ loves to see His faithful servant stand to worship Him. And who better to worship than “Allah, [who is] One, Allah, the Eternal Refuge. He neither begets nor is born, Nor is there to Him any equivalent.” [Surah Ikhlaas: 1-4] His faithful servant, marked by “the sign [of brightness seen] on their faces from the trace of prostrating [in prayer],” loves to stand to meet their Lord in profound moments of devout love. Indeed, “does not every lover love to be alone with his beloved?”6

A Meeting With Our Beloved

In the quiet hours of the night, while the world slept, our beloved Messenger ﷺ, whose heart held love for his wife and deep devotion to his Lord, turned to our mother Aisha raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) with a question of reverence: he ﷺ said, “O Aisha, would it grieve you if I spend this night in worship to my Lord?” Her reply to the Messenger ﷺ only echoed their love; she said, “By Allah, I love to be close to you and I love what pleases you.”7 And thus, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) left the warmth of his bed and the side of his wife, to stand in serene submission before the One who captivated his heart even more than his beloved wife, his Beloved Lord. The entirety of the universe is obedient to Allah ﷻ,

“and to Him belongs whosoever is in the heavens and earth. All are to Him devoutly obedient.” [Surah Ar-Rum: 30;26]

Thus, as the universe surrenders to the Lord of the worlds, the believer conforms to the harmony of creation by prostrating to Allah ﷻ. With a head bowed in humility, the believer stands on the prayer mat ready to enter the chamber of prayer with angels, each the size of mountains, standing behind him or her, and to the right and to the left.8

In the presence of these celestial beings and before the revered King of all kings, it is a prophetic practice from the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ to adorn ourselves in beautiful attire and with pleasant scents. Devotion to Allah ﷻ transcends mere physical ritual or cleanliness. It involves purifying our limbs by performing wudu (ablution) and aligning our hearts solely towards Allah ﷻ. This spiritual orientation is a purification as much as it is a conscious turning of our being away from that which is not our Lord ﷻ. A soul anchored in such intentionality, navigating the world in the name of Allah ﷻ, ascends beyond the prison of dunya, this transient, lower world.9 It does not suffer from the pangs of estrangement or the existential catastrophe of aimlessly existing in this ephemeral world. Instead, it finds peace and familiarity in consistently meeting with the Divine, garnering His pleasure, and beautiful, celestial rewards are blossoming in the Gardens of Jannah

The Sanctuary of Salah window of salah

Praying in seclusion [PC: Haei Elmas (unsplash)]

When we raise both our hands up in Takbir to commence the prayer with the phrase Allāhu Akbar (God is Greater), we cast away every burden of this fleeting life, affirming with our hearts that Allah ﷻ is greater than these temporary trials. The veil of worldly illusions is lifted and with the eye of our hearts, we are reminded that Allah ﷻ is the “originator of the heavens and the earth. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.”10 His authority and power transcend the confines of the austere prison of this world, we only need to ask. In His own words, He ﷻ promised, “Call upon Me; I will respond to you”11 and He ﷻ is the Keeper of His promises. In this private audience with the Divine, the heart speaks to its Creator knowing that He ﷻ understands and responds to our call. 

However, our worship is not transactional. It is not to have our calls answered. It is to answer the call of Allah ﷻ that we stand to worship Him. We recognize Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Majesty and fulfill the purpose for which we were created. Allah ﷻ says,

“I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” [Surah Adh-Dhariyat: 51;56]

As part of the prayer, the believer, who knows and loves Allah ﷻ, glorifies His Majesty “profusely for His Attributes and Perfection.”12

The essence of recitation of the Quran in the prayer is an “endeavor to learn about Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) through His words as if trying to see Him through His Revelation.”13 The Quran is a divine love letter, sent to us from our Beloved ﷻ, to know Him, love Him, and to guide our hearts to Him. One of our righteous Salaf (predecessors) said, “Allah manifests Himself to His slave through His speech [the Quran].”14 Thus, we are guided by the divine mercy and light of Allah ﷻ, for “everything which gives light and illuminates other things has received its light from Him; it has no light of its own.”15 He ﷻ “is the light of the Heavens and the Earth.”16 And the creation is a mere reflection of the Creator. The believer is a conduit of His light: reflecting the light of Allah ﷻ and dispelling the shadows of ignorance and corruption in this world. With every prayer, we present our hearts before our Lord ﷻ, seeking to polish and align them with His guiding light.

When we place our hands over our chests and speak to Him from the depth of our hearts, or bow our heads in humility and our intellect yields to His reverence, Allah ﷻ sees the sincerity of our hearts. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ taught us that

“Allah does not look to your faces and your wealth but He looks to your heart and to your deeds.”[Sahih Muslim 2564c]

As we press our faces to the earth, from it we came and to it we will return,17 our hearts ascend above our intellect and the masks we wear for the world fall away. In the state of sujood (prostration), our burdens lighten, forgiveness is found, and our whispered dua’s (supplications) for mercy are heard and answered by Allah ﷻ. Every word and movement of the prayer draws us closer to Him ﷻ, elevating our spiritual standing, bringing us closer to the Abode of Eternity. This stillness in salah is a sanctuary, fulfilling our deepest psychological, spiritual and emotional needs—needs that no creation can address. We stand with conviction, knowing Allah ﷻ, the Keeper of promises, will accept our sincere devotion out of His boundless mercy:

“And worship your Lord until the certainty [of death] comes to you.” [Surah Al-Hijr: 15;99]

Gazing Towards Eternity

Five times a day, the people of salah “rise to prayer, rise to success” upon the echoing divine calls of Allah ﷻ. We gaze wistfully from inside the enclosure of this worldly prison through a small window to catch a mere glimpse of the eternity of the Hereafter. Each prayer brings us closer to seeing the majestic face of Allah ﷻ and returning to the true home of Jannah. In a land of thornless lote trees18 and sprouting fruits of seventy-two different colors, and endless “rivers of fresh water, rivers of milk never changing in taste, rivers of wine delicious to drink, and rivers of pure honey”19, the dwellers of Jannah will  reside in mansions with “exterior[s] [that] can be seen from inside and interior[s] [that] can be seen from outside.”20 They will visit one another “on white, high-bred mounts that resemble sapphires.”21

In the deepest crevices of our hearts, we long to be among the People of the Right, who see the celestial gates of Jannah open for us, as its keepers say, “Peace be upon you! You have done well, so come in to stay forever,”22 as we’re called to return home. The people of salah will be summoned to enter through their own gate: Baab As-Salah, the Gate of Salah. They will leave behind the ephemeral for the eternal. The pillar of prayer in the Islamic faith is a scent of Paradise that reached the temporal prison of dunya, as it can be smelt from the distance of “seventy autumns.”23 Through the serenity of salah, humanity knows Allah ﷻ, which is a gift unmatched. For “the one who knows Allah, what does he not know? And the one who does not know Allah, what do they know, really? If you know everything else, but do not know Allah, you know nothing.”24

May Allah make us of the ones who know Him, love Him, and always strive to please Him with every moment of our existence. May Allah make us from amongst the dwellers of Jannat al-Firdous and use us to guide others to His path. Allahumma Ameen.



– Conversing with Allah: Reflecting On Surah al-Fatihah For Khushoo In Salah

The Sacred Elixir: The Night Prayer And The Ordinary Muslim

1     Sahih Muslim 29562    Sunan al-Tirmidhī 25263    Quran 18:314    Quran 39:205    Al-Jawziyyah 716    Penfound7    Ṣaḥīḥ Ibn Ḥibbān 6208    Muwatta Malik9    Penfound10    Quran 2:11711    Quran 2:18612    Al-Jawziyyah 6713    Al-Jawziyyah 6814    Al-Jawziyyah 6815    Ala-Maududi16    Quran 24:3517    Quran 20:5518    [Al-Maliki 48]19    [Al-Maliki 58]20    Al-Maliki 3621    Al-Maliki 9822    Quran 39:7323    Al-Maliki 4424    Musab Penfound

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Breaking fasts and making tackles: how rugby league is adapting to Ramadan

The Guardian World news: Islam - 30 March, 2024 - 11:13

Hakim Miloudi and London Broncos teammate Iliess Macani hope Super League stars observing Ramadan will inspire others

London Broncos’ Challenge Cup defeat at Warrington Wolves last weekend was largely uneventful given the final scoreline, but there was a moment of huge significance almost everyone would have missed midway through the Broncos’ 42-0 defeat.

Support staff providing players with water is nothing new, but the sight of London’s physio entering the field with a handful of dates specifically for the Broncos’ Hakim Miloudi to break his fast while the game continued perhaps emphasised the work rugby league still has to do to recognise Muslim athletes. “There was no time to stop and break my fast properly, I was making tackles within seconds of eating,” Miloudi smiles.

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IOK Ramadan: Do You Value Your Promise to Allah? | Keys To The Divine Compass [Ep14]

Muslim Matters - 30 March, 2024 - 10:00

This Ramadan, MuslimMatters is pleased to host the Institute Of Knowledge‘s daily Ramadan series: Keys to the Divine Compass. Through this series, each day we will spend time connecting with the Qur’an on a deeper, more spiritual, uplifting level.

Previous in the series: Juz 1 Juz 2 Juz 3 Juz 4 Juz 5 Juz 6 Juz 7 Juz 8 Juz 9 Juz 10 Juz 11 Juz 12 Juz 13

Juzʾ 14: Do You Value Your Promise to Allah?


Bismillah-ir Raḥmān-ir Raḥīm. All praise to Allah and peace and salutations upon his servant and final messenger Muḥammad (pbuh), Assalāmu ‘Alaykum wa Raḥmatullāhi wa Barakātuh! Welcome to another episode of our Ramaḍān Reflection series, Keys to the Divine Compass, where we go over verses of the Qur’an from every Juz throughout the month of Ramaḍān so that we can derive lessons and apply them to our lives.

InshaAllah today I will be going over verses 95 and 96 from Sūrah al-Naḥl (Sūrah 16) in which Allah (swt) says, “Do not sell the promise of Allah to gain a paltry sum, whatever is by Allah (swt) is better for you, if only you knew. Whatever is by you is fleeting and whatever is by Allah (swt) is everlasting, and we will absolutely reward those who are patient according to the best of what they had done.” In these two verses, Allah (swt) gives us the mindset of a believer in how we are supposed to treat and value our Dīn. When Allah (swt) guided us, this blessing absolutely topped any blessing that He could give us, after the fact that He gave us the ability to know, acknowledge, and submit to Him.

It is the greatest blessing that we have and if a person finds themselves in a position of compromising their Dīn to achieve something of this world, where the Dīn becomes a non-priority, where we compromise our values to get ahead in this world, to achieve the approval of people who do not have the same priorities and beliefs as us, Allah (swt) gives us a warning. No price that you pay in exchange for getting something in this world, if it means giving up the religion, if it means reneging on the promise that you have made to Allah it is not worth it. Even though Allah (swt) of course says ‘a paltry sum’ it does not mean that hypothetically if it was a higher price, it would be okay. Allah (swt) does not mean that if it was a high enough reward then you can deprioritize your religion and go back on the promise you made to Allah.

Absolutely not! Nothing is worth compromising the Dīn over, and Allah (swt) reminds us that what you are trying to ultimately gain in this world is not valuable in the long run, and even intrinsically it is not valuable when compared to what Allah (swt) has stored for you in the hereafter. But you must know what you are giving up to gain whatever you want in this world. Allah (swt) says in verse 96 that whatever is by you is temporary, that hypothetically you go through with this, you sell the Dīn of Allah (swt), you sell out the community, you sell your principles to gain some approval and value, to gain some objective in this world and do know people like this. Hypothetically you go through with it, what you ultimately gained will end because it is temporary, it is fleeting. You might feel that you have achieved a great thing, you might feel that what you had given up from your principles and from your beliefs was worth what you gained, but that will only last for as long as you are alive in this world because you can lose it earlier as well. Even if you are enjoying that benefit and achievement throughout the rest of your life, when you are gone you cannot take it with you. Contrast to what Allah (swt) has kept in store for you, that is everlasting. It is always there and worth being patient over any gain that you might achieve in this world.

Often, especially for people who are in very high positions, when they think that they might be able to affect some type of change, but to affect change they must give up something, usually the first thing to be compromised is religion. Nobody thinks of taking a pay cut, nobody thinks of getting a demotion, nobody thinks of leaving whatever they are doing, but when it comes to compromise the first thing that is typically compromised are the religious values, the principles that Allah (swt) and the Prophet (pbuh) taught us. Allah (swt) reminds us to be principled in these verses, that whatever you think you can gain by giving up on your values and principles in this world is not going to be worth it, because you are giving up something that is permanent, everlasting in exchange for something that is temporary. Even if it was worth it in the moment, on the day of judgment when the believers are being rewarded for their patience and for the best of their actions you will have wished you did the same.

May Allah (swt) protect all of us from compromising our principles and values to gain the approval of those who do not have the same objectives and priorities as us. May Allah (swt) guide, bless, and protect us all. Assalāmu ‘Alaykum wa Raḥmatullāhi wa Barakātuh.

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A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 19] Of Plans, Parenting And Genocide

Muslim Matters - 30 March, 2024 - 02:10

This Ramadan, MuslimMatters reached out to our regular (and not-so-regular) crew of writers asking them to share their reflections on various ayahs/surahs of the Quran, ideally with a focus on a specific juz – those that may have impacted them in some specific way or have influenced how they approach both life and deen. While some contributors are well-versed in at least part of the Quranic Sciences, not all necessarily are, but reflect on their choices as a way of illustrating that our Holy Book is approachable from various human perspectives.

Introducing, A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series


Of Plans, Parenting & Genocide

by Hiba Masood


I love how we console each other with verses from the Quran. I love how we gear up for the last ten nights of Ramadan. I love that we’re thrilled if someone we know is invited for Umrah. I love that if one of us sneezes the other has a blessed response. I love how every time someone has praised my work they have given me a dua’.

I love Muslims with an earnestness that hurts. The Ummah is my most favorite thing in the world. To see it in pain gives me a deep searing grief. And to work for it, the greatest privilege I had never imagined to be afforded.

Recent months have made clear that the past was a mirage and the future is uncertain. We need strength and optimism to face whatever lies ahead. We need a plan. With a capital P.

Each and every one of us must urgently and immediately consider how we can expand our circle of influence, how we can be distributors of truth and goodness in our respective communities, how far into these turbulent waters we can throw the net of tawheed and righteousness, what changes we must make to life to become leaders and raise warriors in the army of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

You know, those warriors we gave birth to. The ones in the next room right now, probably squabbling over iPad time.

The more I worry over how my kids are turning out and the more I see the ummah suffering, the more focussed my dua’ has become. I find myself suddenly unable to pray anything but the one specific dua’ which keeps coming to mind and tongue, almost unbidden. Again and again, I recite:

˹They are˺ those who pray, “Our Lord! Bless us with ˹pious˺ spouses and offspring who will be the coolness of our eyes, and make us leaders for the righteous.” [Surah Al-Furqan: 25;74]

Every time I see a brave man from Gaza consoling his family with verses from the Quran, I recite: emphasis on the part about the pious spouse.

Every time I see a Palestinian mother weeping over her lost children, I recite:

emphasis on the part about my children being the coolness of my eyes.

Every time I feel a deep and urgent sense of responsibility to create more for the ummah of kids, I recite:

emphasis on the part about being a leader for the righteous.

It’s such a beautiful and comprehensive ayah, this verse in Surah Furqan. And it comes near the end of a long list of ayahs that encompass those qualities that define the true servants of the Merciful.

I want to focus on being a Servant of the Merciful. Very much. Except…

“I don’t know much about the red heifers.”
“I don’t know when Dajjal is coming.”
“I don’t know when or how Israel will stop.”

My kids ask me questions all day long and most of my answers start with “I don’t know.”

So instead I tell them what I do know: that my most fervent dua’ has become to work for the Ummah till the day I die.

Protesting genocide

Starting young (PC: Tristan Sosteric [unsplash])

I tell them that instead of letting anxiety and frustration over this brutal life shake my heart and worry my mind, I’ve made my Plan. I’m going to channel all my energy into the kids. Not just them, I hastily reassure them as mild panic flits across their faces. All Muslim kids.

My friend said, “the education of Muslim kids needs to be tackled like it’s a state of emergency.” Teaching is something I know. So I am on board immediately.

So just like I ask my kids, I tell parents to ask their kids: What are the three most important sites for Muslims? Makkah, Madina, Masjid Al Aqsa. What is Palestine? Count off defining virtues together: A beautiful place of olives and oranges. The land of Masjid Al Aqsa, where Prophet Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was born, where RasulAllah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) went on his night journey to the heavens, where countless Prophets are buried, a place Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said is filled with blessings.

If you can, ask them what is happening in Palestine? Keep your voice steady as you teach them the answer you want to hear, the CORRECT answer: A genocide. A violent occupation. By an illegal settler colonial entity called Israel. Listen to their subsequent (brilliant) questions and correct, console, muse, and marvel with them, even as you wonder inside, in situations like now, what is our role as parents, as Muslims, as guardians of the future of this Ummah.

I understand what we tell our children about the world and how we tell it, has always been a deeply personal thing for us mothers. There’s no right or wrong way or maybe there’s only wrong ways. We’ll find out later I guess. Some of us will avoid talking about reality entirely, some of us will say a lot of I don’t knows, some of us will gloss over the uglier parts and some of us will share a few really hard truths and then question ourselves as our kids’ eyes fill with tears.

How lovely to have such choices.

That’s what Black parents say when White parents don’t want to talk about race.

How lovely to have such choices.

That’s what I find myself thinking every time my kids argue over who is going to get more pieces of brownies at iftar. “Think of the kids in Gaza!” I want to scream at them approximately 75 times a day. But they are little. And there is only so much empathy I can ask of them after a long day of fasting.

Alhamdulillah, they are fasting. And like the ayah says, they are the “coolness of my eyes”. They really truly are. They are so good and sweet and earnest. Except…

I don’t know when my kids will learn the first 10 ayahs of Surah Kahf.
I don’t know if my kids would be able to stand hunger.
I don’t know how ready my kids are for what lies ahead.

More I don’t knows creep into my head.

I make another plan.

At the very least, as we muddle through this thing called “parenting during genocide”, we MUST give some general aqeedah-building thoughts to our babies. You know, the things we know:

“Nothing is fair in this world. Many things are frightening. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is bigger than all our ideas of fear and fairness. It’s all going to go from bad to worse. Terrible things are yet to be seen. As believers, we *know* how this is going to play out. (spoiler alert: we win in the end, Allahumma ameen.)”

Knowing what’s up ahead and how to cope with it is the great gift of Islamic knowledge.

And in case you need a few concrete steps on this, here we go:

For our Muslim kids and their future generations to be pious spouses, coolness of eyes, leaders of the believers, and prepared for a free Palestine, they must possess two essential character traits.


Strength + Optimism

Strength and optimism in a Muslim comes from five elements that, as parents, we must provide to Muslim kids:

  1. Nurture unshakeable belief in the truth of Islam and every verse of the Quran
  2. Equip them with deep knowledge about the past, present, and future
  3. Train their minds to have correct thoughts and thinking patterns
  4. Build courage and sturdiness in them and ourselves
  5. Keep them connected to righteous people and the community of believers

Well, this is my plan anyways. This…and verse 25:74 on anxious repeat: 

“Our Lord! BLESS US with ˹pious˺ spouses and offspring who will be the coolness of our eyes, and make us leaders for the righteous.”

Emphasis on bless us, bless us, bless us.


What about you? What’s your plan?



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

My Starry Night – How Van Gogh Gave Me A Glimpse of Allah’s Plan

The post A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 19] Of Plans, Parenting And Genocide appeared first on

IOK Ramadan: Are They Equal? | Keys To The Divine Compass [Ep12]

Muslim Matters - 29 March, 2024 - 10:00

This Ramadan, MuslimMatters is pleased to host the Institute Of Knowledge‘s daily Ramadan series: Keys to the Divine Compass. Through this series, each day we will spend time connecting with the Qur’an on a deeper, more spiritual, uplifting level.

Previous in the series: Juz 1 Juz 2 Juz 3 Juz 4 Juz 5 Juz 6 Juz 7 Juz 8 Juz 9 Juz 10 Juz 11

Juzʾ 12: Are They Equal?

Bismillah-ir Raḥmān-ir Raḥīm. All praise to Allah and peace and salutations upon his servant and final messenger Muḥammad (pbuh), Assalāmu ‘Alaykum wa Raḥmatullāhi wa Barakātuh! Welcome to another episode of our Ramaḍān Reflection series, Keys to the Divine Compass, where we go over verses of the Qur’an from every Juz throughout the month of Ramaḍān so that we can derive lessons and apply them to our lives.

InshaAllah today I will be going over verse 24 from Sūrah Hūd (Sūrah 11) in which Allah (swt) says, “The example of the two groups is like that of the blind and deaf compared to those who are hearing and seeing; are they equal? Do they not think? If we think over this verse it comes at the end of a series of verses where Allah (swt) highlights the differences between the disbelievers and the believers. Allah (swt) begins by talking about the disbelievers and says they are those who craft lies against Allah, either by saying that there is no Creator, or that the Creator is not worthy of worship, or that the Creator has equals who are also worthy of worship, or that the Creator is dependent on others. They lead themselves astray and become obstacles in the paths of others to believing in Allah (swt). Allah (swt) says the believers on the other hand are those who believe, do good, and humble themselves in front of Allah, so you have two contrasted approaches when it comes to thinking about existence and living a worldly life.

You have those who believe in Allah (swt) and you have those who do not, and Allah (swt) says these two groups can be compared to a blind and deaf person and a seeing and hearing person. Keep in mind: this verse is not talking about the natural blindness or deafness that a person might be born with, that is from Allah (swt). The idea behind this comparison is to alert us to the idea of spiritual blindness and deafness, which is characteristic of the disbelievers. The key difference between the ṣaḥābah that allowed them to become the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) and the disbelievers of their time was this characteristic: the believers were spiritually seeing and hearing, they were alert of the Revelation and were humble to accept it. The disbelievers, on the other hand, were spiritually blind and deaf and their insistence upon their lies caused them to become more blind and deaf until Allah (swt) sealed their hearts. The disbelievers knew who the Prophet (pbuh) was, they heard him recite the words of the Qur’an and heard the Revelation directly from him. Yet, it was as if someone was speaking to a deaf person, who obviously could not hear. It was as if they were blind, because despite the miracles that the Prophet (pbuh) did, despite his character that knew about, they acted as if they were blind and could not see the truth for what it was even though it was in front of them. Contrast this to the believers who were seeing and hearing in the spiritual sense. We had companions like ‘Abd-Allah bin Um Maktūm (R) who was physically blind but spiritually able to see, whose heart was open to the Revelation so even though he could not see the Prophet (pbuh) and did not see the miracles he acknowledged what was the truth.

Allah (swt) asks if you have these two different groups in front of you, can you, by all logic and reason, say that they are equal? Of course not. Allah (swt) says that if you cannot consider a physically blind and deaf person equal to a physically seeing and hearing person, then how can you consider those who are spiritually blind and deaf equal to those who are able to see spiritually and hear spiritually? How are you able to compare the two? The believers and the disbelievers are not one and the same. It is a rhetorical question. Are they alike? Of course not. Allah (swt) wants us to ponder and think that if they are not alike, then whose path are we on? Are we on the path of those who disbelieve, or on the path of those who believe but might not be strong believers, or might be actively hindering others from reaching Allah (swt), or on the path of those who believe, do good, and humble themselves in front of their Lord?


Allah (swt) says that the reason for the characteristics of the disbelievers and the believers (in this regard) being explained to you is so that you are aware of their ultimate consequences. On the day of judgment, when the disbelievers are being pushed into the fire, they will have no one to blame but themselves, they will be from among the biggest of losers. However, if a person believes, does good, humbles themselves in front of Allah (swt), accepts the fact that their existence is because of Allah (swt) and as a result He has the right to tell them how to live their existence, that Allah (swt)’s orders and obligations are more precious, valuable, and important than their own, then they will be from the inhabitants of Jannah wherein they will reside forever.


May Allah (swt) make us from amongst them, make us all sincere, strong, and committed believers, and guide, bless, and protect us all. Assalāmu ‘Alaykum wa Raḥmatullāhi wa Barakātuh.

The post IOK Ramadan: Are They Equal? | Keys To The Divine Compass [Ep12] appeared first on

Advice For Muslim Seniors On Ramadan: It’s Not About The Food

Muslim Matters - 29 March, 2024 - 08:44

Or as my husband so aptly puts it, “Ramadan 2024 is not ‘The Great Cooking and Baking Contest for the World’ that’s currently streaming.”

Take yourself back to Ramadan of 2020; our “Covid Ramadan”. It was a precursor to lessons we had never dreamed of experiencing in our lifetimes. Our Covid Ramadan of social gatherings during suhoor, iftar, taraweeh, and, as well, Eid celebrations had vanished; while quarantines, and for some, isolation appeared.

It was mind-blowing. How could we not enjoy one another’s company in breaking bread together? How could we not open our homes, masjid doors to meet newcomers, and neighbors to share in our Ramadan? How could we not relax after iftar with our community while sipping tea before taraweeh? How could we not stand shoulder to shoulder, or, as in this senior’s case, chair to chair, in unison during salat al-taraweeh?

While it definitely was a lot to sort out, we made it through.

Looking back now, we thought it was tough. We thought we had experienced it all. But guess what, think again.

Writing this article has been challenging. My inner best friend, procrastination kept nudging me, “hold on, you’re missing something.’” Procrastination was correct. But during those writing blocks my inner best friend had turned further inward to grasping my lifelong companion, faith tied to fate. Procrastination was packed and out the door.

As the month of Ramadan 2024 steadily progressed, the daily incidents of injustices toward Gazans increased. Beginning with Gazans posting on social media requesting Muslims not to post food photos from suhoor and iftars (aka, let’s not rub salt in their ever-increasing wounds of loss, hardships, and difficulties we have not experienced).
Personal exchanges as well, gifted me with another perspective to reflect on. While having my vitals taken at my doctor’s office, the nurse asked me various questions about Ramadan. All very normal, valid, and relevant.
It was this question that hit me the hardest, however, in examining how I approach Ramadan. She genuinely asked me, “But when you eat at night, don’t you stuff yourself?”

Muslim seniors

Muslim senior praying (PC: Imad Alassiry [unsplash])

I explained how it affects my metabolism, and how I gradually become used to the fasting along with the body changes, i.e., my stomach shrinks and overeating is a big turn-off. My mind was stuck on the question, “don’t you stuff yourself?” Every visual, spoken cry of Gazans replayed in my mind. The gradual loss of food supplies. The inhumane destruction of food. The refusals of food distributions. The water cut off. The starvation. All of it.

How could I stuff myself? How will I meet Ramadan this year? Which took me back to ask, were the tests of Ramadan 2020 sent to us to prepare for the gut-wrenching exams of Ramadan 2024? Such soul-searching tests are reminders for each of us to embrace the best of our abilities most especially this Ramadan.

We have numerous reminders to jump-start our souls into internal and external actions. Actions of dua’s from the heart. Actions of practicing what we preach.

The early Muslims were harshly forced into an embargo by the Meccans. They suffered severely in exile with grass, insects, roots, and shrubbery as sources of food. It was reported that ants ate the parchment detailing the unjust clauses of the proclamation by the Muslims, except for the wording in the Name of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

The reference regarding the embargo against the early Muslims rewound in my mind, specifically with the brutality of which the apartheid regime of Israel has focused on Palestinians for over 75 years. It is most relevant now in Gaza and all occupied territories of Palestine.
It has often been relayed how Palestinians hold the highest levels of faith in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Their trust, strength, patience, and perseverance are essential cores in their faith. How can we not follow their examples?

Because Ramadan is not, nor has it ever been, about the food.

It’s about digging deep into our relationship with Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Our relationship with ourselves, family, neighbors, community. The world. It’s about the blessings Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has given us in striving to improve ourselves. To reflect on all of the blessings we see or know of and those we are not yet aware of in our lives.

As we (as Muslim seniors in particular) delve into the final days of Ramadan, consider these conversations, again and again, of pointers for an overall healthy Ramadan of mind, spirit, and body.

  •  – Time may be our companion in faith or our companion in stress. Take hold of the rope of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) as your companion in faith by managing time to the best of your abilities.
  • – Continue to donate (more) in whatever ways are feasible to you financially and spiritually. Give monetary funds locally and internationally to Muslim organizations you are familiar with. Give spiritually more than you ever have before; a smile, kindness, a helping hand.
  • – Make continual dua’s for everyone. Pray on time.
  • – Muslim seniors, it is no embarrassment to utilize your time in taking naps. Naps are good as we age. They especially help us get through the fasting days and prayer nights to our goals of meeting the 29th or 30th day of fasting.
  • – Focus on your connection with Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Use this month to be alone with Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). It’s really okay to decline an invitation for suhoor or iftar. While they are spiritually uplifting in bonding with community members, they can also be very challenging when witnessing waste of food, or disregard for our environment by not going green.
  • – Don’t waste water.
  • – Don’t overeat. Eat simple foods.
  • – For Muslim seniors with health challenges, make a doctor’s appointment when you can. Before, during, or even after Ramadan. Maybe schedule a tele-appointment. You may have diabetes, for example, and not sure how to approach fasting. As well, an appointment after Ramadan may point to health improvements made due to fasting. Diabetics sometimes find their blood sugar levels have vastly improved by leveling off to more of a safe zone. What a blessing of food for thought!
  • – Remember, your body has a right over you:

Narrated `Abdullah bin `Amr bin Al-`As: Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “O `Abdullah! Have I not been formed that you fast all the day and stand in prayer all night?” I said, “Yes, O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)!” He said, “Do not do that! Observe the fast sometimes and also leave them (the fast) at other times; stand up for the prayer at night and also sleep at night. Your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you and your wife has a right over you.” [Sahih al-Bukhari 5199]

  • – Meet each day striving to become closer to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Read and absorb the Qur’an. Do you have a favorite scholar or series to gain knowledge from on YouTube, for example? The Ramadan Series from Yaqeen Institute with Dr. Omar Sulieman is full of inspiration and awe in continuing our education as Muslim seniors.
  • – Perform salat al-taraweeh as though it is our last because time is more significant now more than ever as a Muslim senior.
  • – We are living during a genocide during Ramadan. Something we would never have fathomed. Be a witness to the ongoing sufferings of Gazans, of Palestinians worldwide, and speak out. Fight the good fight.
  • – Make plenty of dua’, dua’, dua’… and as often as possible.

May our Ramadan be a blessing for each and every one of us, inshaAllah. Ameen.



Avoid Financial Elder Abuse Through Islamic Principles

5 Ways You Can Still Have A Healthy Ramadan


The post Advice For Muslim Seniors On Ramadan: It’s Not About The Food appeared first on

Taliban edict to resume stoning women to death met with horror

The Guardian World news: Islam - 28 March, 2024 - 18:02

Afghan regime’s return to public stoning and flogging is because there is ‘no one to hold them accountable’ for abuses, say activists

The Taliban’s announcement that it is resuming publicly stoning women to death has been enabled by the international community’s silence, human rights groups have said.

Safia Arefi, a lawyer and head of the Afghan human rights organisation Women’s Window of Hope, said the announcement had condemned Afghan women to return to the darkest days of Taliban rule in the 1990s.

Continue reading...

A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 17] Trust Fund And A Yellow Lamborghini

Muslim Matters - 28 March, 2024 - 09:09

This Ramadan, MuslimMatters reached out to our regular (and not-so-regular) crew of writers asking them to share their reflections on various ayahs/surahs of the Quran, ideally with a focus on a specific juz – those that may have impacted them in some specific way or have influenced how they approach both life and deen. While some contributors are well-versed in at least part of the Quranic Sciences, not all necessarily are, but reflect on their choices as a way of illustrating that our Holy Book is approachable from various human perspectives.

Introducing, A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series


Trust Fund and a Yellow Lamborghini

By Wael Abdelgawad


The Fools

Yellow Lamborghini

Amirah heard the car coming from a distance. It could not be mistaken for any other car, as her brother’s Lamborghini uttered a growl like a tiger with its hackles up. She walked through the spacious lobby, preceded by the refrigerator-sized bodyguard, Bryce. In spite of his bulk, he wore a fine suit and walked with grace. She was paying him by the day for this short-term gig, and he wasn’t cheap. Not that it mattered much. $500 per day was a drop in the sea, but still, why be wasteful?

The lobby was decorated with antique Arabic plates and hand-written copies of the Quran in glass cases. Bryce insisted on walking ahead of her at all times. The man was taking the job to extremes, and Amirah was getting annoyed.

The hulking bodyguard swung open the massive front door and stepped out to stand, cross-armed, in front of it. Amirah followed. Their large estate had a long, winding driveway that came up from the gate below, and here came the Lambo, hugging the curves, going too fast as always.

The sleek driving machine sped into the circular driveway in front of the house and hit the brakes too late. At the last second the car swerved, sliding sideways into the circular flower bed at the center of the driveway, crushing the flower bushes and throwing up gouts of soil.

Her brother Thabet – his friends called him “Bet” – stumbled out of the car, laughing, wine bottle in hand – as always these days – and was followed a moment later by his two friends, Ziggy and Croc, as they called themselves. Ziggy held a tall can of beer, and Croc’s face was surrounded by a cloud of smoke as he puffed on his vape. They bandied insults with each other until they caught sight of Amirah and Bryce.

“Yo, Bet,” Ziggy said. “Your sister has a new boyfriend. Looks like an NFL linebacker.”

“Your sister is getting down,” Croc added.

“Shut up!” Thabet snapped. “That’s my sister, have some respect.”

“So what?” Ziggy countered. “You run her down all the time.”

The three men began to walk toward the door.

“Stop,” Amirah said firmly. “Thabet only may enter. You other two will have to call an Uber.” Belying the firmness of her own words, she tugged on her ear nervously. She’d set this whole thing up, but did not feel confident about it.

Take the Lambo

“Don’t be stupid,” Thabet said. “It’s my house too.” The men were about to push their way in when Bryce stepped forward and shoved all three back with one arm. Thabet dropped the wine bottle, which shattered on the paving stones. Ziggy’s beer sloshed in his face. Croc began to cough smoke.

What followed was a variety of curses, insults, and indignant objections, all tempered by the look of steel that Bryce gave the three men. Finally, giving up the fight, Thabet tossed the car keys to Ziggy, who dropped them.

“Take the Lambo,” Thabet said with a generous wave. “But you bring that candy back without a scratch or I’ll break your neck.”

On cue, Amirah took a small electronic device from her pocket and pressed a button. The Lamborghini uttered a chirp, and the doors locked automatically.

“I don’t think so,” Amirah said. “I shut it down.”

“Wha?” Thabet was baffled. “How?”

“I pay for the South Star service, remember? I can use it to shut the car down in case of theft.”

“Your sister is trippin’, Bet,” Croc commented.

In the end, the two friends ordered an Uber and Thabet stormed into the house alone, shouting for Amapola, the maid, to make him something to eat.

Slamming the Refrigerator Door

Amirah followed, motioning for Bryce to remain behind. Her heart was beating fast. Thabet could be impulsive and even violent. She’d bailed him out of jail more than once for fighting in the street. He’d never been violent toward his own sister, but he wasn’t above breaking things, even expensive things. This was the main reason she’d hired Brice. She needed backup for this confrontation. She found Thabet in the kitchen, looking around.

“Where’s Amapola?” he demanded.

“She’s on vacation. If you want something to eat, you can cook it yourself, after which I expect you to wash the dishes. If you don’t clean up properly, the fridge will be emptied and there won’t be any more food.”

Thabet rounded on her. “Have you lost your mind? Fine. I’ll go stay at the Ritz. At least those people know how to treat a man with respect.”

Amirah shook her head. “You’re no man. And I’ve terminated your credit cards and shut off access to the trust fund. You don’t have a penny to your name.”

Thabet turned red. “You can’t do that! Are you insane?”

“You don’t get control of your fund until you’re twenty-five. In the meantime, I have full discretion.”

Refrigerator“You can’t do this!” Thabet seized the refrigerator door, opened it, and slammed it shut, then again and again. A plastic box of grapes fell out and broke open, the grapes rolling in every direction like the heads of executed criminals. Thabet stomped on the grapes, which squirted juice across the floor.

Amirah flinched. “Don’t make me call Bryce. I’ll have him put you out of this house. You can go live on Ziggy’s couch for all I care.”

“Is that the hulk you hired? You got something going with him?”

“You know better than that.”

What Do You Want?

For the first time since his drunken arrival, her brother paused and took a breath. He studied Amirah’s face. A look of surprised alarm crossed his features. “You’re serious about this,” he said. “Why? What do you want?”

Amirah sighed and tugged on her ear. “I want you to grow up. You’re intelligent. Your IQ tested at a genius level. But what have you done since high school? You didn’t go to university. All you do is hang out with those idiot friends, drink, and play video games. You are twenty-two years old, for heaven’s sake, and you’re throwing your life down the tubes. Think of all that you and I have survived. Was it for this? What meaning does your life have?”

Even as she said this, Amirah wondered what meaning her own life had. She was thirty years old. She had a degree in finance, and spent much of her time either cleaning up Thabet’s messes or managing the family wealth, all of which – along with this house – had been left to her and her brother by Ammu Rahman. She’d received a few marriage proposals, but when one had as much money as she did, it was difficult to trust the sincerity of a potential partner. Money, money, money. Everything always seemed to come back to money, and she hated it. She’d never dreamed of being rich. She wanted a happy family. Yet her life consisted of managing a ridiculous amount of wealth, and living in perpetual anxiety about what her loose cannon brother might do next.

Alhamdulillah that she had her deen. When the loneliness was too much to bear, she had the Quran, which was a mountain spring that revived her heart every day. She had dua’, without which she could not survive. She had Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), who she believed wanted good for her, in spite of all the hardships she’d faced. Of course, anyone else would find her pathetic, talking about hardships when she lived like a noble, she realized that. But everyone struggled in this life, in their own way.

A World of Horrors

As these thoughts passed through their mind, Thabet had been staring at her, his face growing red. “Meaning?” he finally said quietly, intensely. “There is no meaning, dear sister. This is a world of horrors. It’s a slaughterhouse, and we humans are the cows being led to the abattoir. It’s all emptiness. Why should I waste my time with university? I’m already rich. All that’s left is to have fun before they pile the dirt on my face. I read Shakespeare in high school, remember? ‘Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more.’”

Amirah was shaking her head. “Don’t say these things. We were created by Allah for a purpose.”

Car accident“I’ve seen the purpose!” Thabet screamed. Amirah thought for a moment that he might start breaking things, but instead he collapsed into a chair at the big cherrywood kitchen table, his shoulders slumped. “I saw it all, remember? You were unconscious after the crash, but I sat there hanging upside down and crying, and I saw the blood pouring out of Baba’s neck as he tried to hold it in. Pouring out and spilling through the air. I saw Mama with her skull split nearly open but still conscious, trying to look at us, to see if we were okay. I was only five years old, but I remember. Where was the purpose in their deaths? Where was the meaning? And then Ammu Rahman ten years later, died of a heart attack on the floor of this very room. Like the universe is saying to us, you brats, I’m going to beat you down one way or another.”

Uncle Rahman

Amirah sat beside her brother and took his hand. “I can’t answer that, except to say that everyone dies. It’s only a matter of timing. Why did our parents die that day, while we lived? That knowledge belongs to Allah. But look at us. We were taken care of. Uncle Rahman loved us. Life goes on.”

“Rahman only did it because he had to. It was a family obligation. He didn’t give a crap about us.”

Astaghfirullah! He doted on you.”

Thabet pulled his hand away. “Family obligation,” he repeated stubbornly. “Not the same as love.”

“I love you.”

“No, you don’t. Look at you, taking away my trust fund. You think that’s love? It’s control. Amirah, there are billions of people in this world, all trying to control each other. Half of them starving, another 45% struggling, and 5% living like kings. It’s all random. We live in the throat of Hell, about to be swallowed down. This world is an abyss.”

Amirah was shocked. She’d never heard her brother speak like this. Where was he getting these ideas?

“If you don’t like the word love,” Amirah countered, “call it mercy. There is mercy in this world. People help people. They sacrifice themselves. The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) sacrificed more than you can imagine to bring truth into the world.”

“What you call mercy is self-interest. People donate money and write it off as a tax deduction.”

Amirah tugged on her ear. “I’m going to tell you something that I wasn’t supposed to. “Ammu Rahman was not our uncle.”

Thabet glanced at her sullenly. “What do you mean?”

“You saw him around a lot because he was Baba’s business partner, and his friend since childhood. He took us in out of love. He didn’t have to do it. And he left us everything, just as if we were his own kids. He wanted you to think he was our blood uncle, to make the transition easier.”

Amirah saw the surprise on Thabet’s face. He mulled over her words for a while, then said, “Self-interest. He got companionship. Plus he lied to me. That’s not love.”

The Seventeenth Night

She said the only thing she thought might wake him up: “Did you know this is Ramadan? Tonight is the seventeenth night.”

That caught Thabet off guard, she could see. He had always loved Ramadan as a kid, but he’d drifted totally away from the deen after Uncle Rahman’s death.

“I didn’t know that,” Thabet muttered. “Not that it really matters. Look sis, just tell me specifically what you want.”

Amirah had an answer ready. “I want you to spend three days reading the Quran.”

Thabet scowled. “Are you serious?” When Amirah only nodded, he said, “Like a marathon? Three days non-stop?”

She shook her head. “Say, four hours per day. Starting now. For now, tonight, I want you to read it to me.”

“If I agree? Then what?”

“You get everything back. All your toys.”

“No conditions?” His tone was incredulous.

“No conditions.”

Thabet laughed. “Okay, bring me the Quran. I’ll start right now.”

“Take a shower first. And drink a cup of coffee.”

Open It Anywhere

A little later, back in the kitchen, sitting at the big cherrywood table, Thabet held a copy of the Quran in his hands as Amirah sat beside him.

“Open it anywhere and begin,” Amirah said. “Read it out loud to me. Arabic, then English.”

“I don’t know how to read Arabic anymore.”

“I’m pretty sure you do.” When they were kids, Uncle Rahman had hired the best tutors to teach them Arabic, Quran, and Islamic studies.

Thabet opened the Quran randomly. “Surat Al-Anbiyaa. The Prophets.”

SubhanAllah, Amirah thought. Al-Anbiyaa. Juz 17 on the seventeenth night of Ramadan.

Thabet began to read the first ayah in Arabic, but Amirah halted him.

Aoothoo billahi –

“Oh right.” Thabet recited the refrain against Shaytan, and the Basmallah, then continued. His Arabic reading was nearly flawless. He followed with the English:

1. [The time of] their account has approached for the people, while they are in heedlessness turning away.

2. No mention [i.e., revelation] comes to them anew from their Lord except that they listen to it while they are at play.

“Take a moment and think about those ayahs please,” Amirah said. “Consider that you opened this page randomly.” She knew he would see the obvious: that Allah was talking about him. Talking to him.

Life Is Not In Vain

Amirah listened as Thabet continued. In the surah, Allah went on to talk about the prophets. That they were human beings who ate food. They were not immortals, or angels. And Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) himself was not a wizard or a poet. They were infallible in their speech regarding Allah, but fallible in worldly matters. Men who suffered, experienced loss, yet stayed on the path. Past nations were destroyed because they took their Prophets and revelations as jokes or they rejected the concept of truth, preferring instead to live lives of pleasure. Like her brother had said, All that’s left is to have fun before they pile the dirt on my face.

He came to ayahs 16 and 17:

16. And We did not create the heaven and earth and that is between them in play.

17. Had We intended to take a diversion, We could have taken it from [what is] with Us – if [indeed] We were to do so.

“Do you get it?” Amirah broke in. “This life is not a joke, it’s not in vain. Allah didn’t create you to amuse Himself. He, the Creator of all things, designed this world with meaning and intent. It has to be one way or the other, you see? There’s no in-between.” She held out her hands, moving them up and down like scales on a balance. “Either Allah speaks the truth, in which case everything in this world has meaning, including the deaths of our parents and Ammu Rahman – or Allah is lying, and nothing has meaning, just as you said. It’s all a horror show without purpose. But I don’t believe you really believe those words. So tell me, do you think Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala is lying?”

“Well – no,” Thabet stammered. “I never said anything like that.”

Amirah stood up and jabbed him in the chest. “Then you have to acknowledge that everything Allah says is true. This world was not created in vain. Allah’s mercy fills this world, and goodness is real. Sacrifice is real, love is real.”

“I – I don’t know about all that.”

Truth Destroys Falsehood

“Read the next ayah. Read it!”

18. Rather, We dash the truth upon falsehood, and it destroys it, and thereupon it departs. And for you is destruction from that which you describe.

“Thabet,” Amirah said, “I love you. But all these false things you say, Allah will smash them with truth. And those falsehoods will betray you. I don’t know where you got those twisted ideas, but you need to heal your mind and heart, or the truth will destroy you.”

Thabet continued to ayah 24:

24. Or have they taken gods besides Him? Say, “Produce your proof. This [Qur’ān] is the message for those with me and the message of those before me.” But most of them do not know the truth, so they are turning away.

“I’m going to stop you one last time,” Amirah said. “With a question. Have you taken your Lambo, and trust fund, and wine bottles, as gods besides Allah? And if so, do you think they will save you when truth comes and smashes them?”

An Agreement of Trust

She stood. “Our agreement is an agreement of trust. I won’t monitor you. Three days of Quran.” Amirah turned and left. Before she went upstairs to her bedroom she dismissed Bryce and gave him his pay, informing him that his services were no longer needed.

Thabet read the Quran for three days, almost always at the kitchen table. He didn’t whine or make requests, and didn’t make any phone calls that Amirah saw, though she had not turned off his phone. Amirah backed off her threat to make him feed himself, as she cooked for the two of them, and let him wash the dishes. They ate together, mostly silently, though Thabet occasionally commented on something he’d read in the Quran. At the end of the three days, Thabet said, “Now what?”

“I already turned your Lambo and credit cards back on,” Amirah replied. “Actually I did it that first night, when you read Surat Al-Anbiyaa.”


Amirah never saw Ziggy and Croc again. She wasn’t going to claim that Thabet changed overnight, or that a miracle took place that first night when he read Surat Al-Anbiyaa. But she did claim – to herself anyway – that truth had smashed into falsehood and destroyed it.

Thabet still lost his temper and raised his voice now and then, but he never broke anything, and never drank alcohol again, that Amirah saw. Gradually he transitioned into a thoughtful, inquisitive, and slightly introverted young man. It was as if Amirah was getting to know her brother for the first time, as an adult. The man he was capable of being.

Six months later he sold the yellow Lambo and donated the funds for Gaza relief aid. A year after that, Amirah got married, and five years after that, two children ran about the house. Thabet did not move out. The kids loved Ammu Thabet, and knew that in the evenings he could be found at the kitchen table, reading the Quran as Amapola worked around him to prepare supper.



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Religious Scholars Urge Maryland Senator To Stand For Justice On Gaza

Muslim Matters - 28 March, 2024 - 06:31

By Ibrahim Moiz


Bism Allah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim

Open Letter U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)

Over fifty imams and Islamic academics in the eastern American state of Maryland have written an open letter to Senator Chris Van Hollen, urging him to stand for justice and against the indiscriminate Israeli slaughter in Gaza. The letter highlights the importance of the United Nations’ regional aid agency (UNRWA), which Van Hollen defended against baseless Israeli accusations of militancy that had led to the suspension of its funds by a number of pro-Israel states two months ago. The letter also reminds Van Hollen of the war’s enormous costs, which have personally struck much of his constituency, and urges him to continue to take a principled stand for peace.

At last count a month ago, the bloody Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, portrayed as a reprisal for a Palestinian raid from the long-blockaded region, has killed well over thirty thousand people, half of them children. A supposed retaliation for the October 2023 Palestinian attack led by Hamas, the Israeli campaign has torn up much of the region without discrimination, with officials as high as the presidency and much of the Israeli populace stripping the Palestinians of any humanity and calling instead for their displacement – in other words, ethnic cleansing – to the neighboring Sinai Peninsula so that the ethnonationalist militias that comprise a key component of the far-right Israeli regime’s support base might settle there.

The galling slaughter has been highlighted further by the glaring discrepancy between official claims, where most of Tel Aviv’s traditional supporters in countries like the United States have repeatedly echoed rapidly disproven Israeli propaganda, and the brutality caught on social media by both beleaguered Palestinians and their gloating opponents.

Attacking a Lifeline justice for Gaza - UNRWA aid

Displaced Palestinians wait to receive United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) aid, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, March 7, 2024. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

The United Nations’ regional refugee agency – the United Nations’ Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Middle East, or UNRWA, led currently by Philippe Lazzarini – has been a lifeline for Palestinians in the region since its foundation in 1949, taking on added importance after Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and West Bank in 1967. Given that Israeli policy since the 1980s has often been to make the region uninhabitable for its Palestinian natives – a key policy aim of the Likud Party and its governing coalition – UNRWA has often been targeted by Israel, notwithstanding official claims to international law.

Even as the International Court of Justice found plausibility of a genocide during a complaint issued by South Africa two months ago, Israel lashed out by accusing United Nations aid workers of having partaken in the October 2023 Hamas attack. Notwithstanding the fact that nearly every Israeli accusation since October 2023 had been belied by subsequent investigation and that Tel Aviv clearly had an established motive for calumny, a number of countries, foremost the United States, promptly withdrew their funds at a moment when the agency’s work was more vital than ever.

It transpired that Israel’s case against the agency rested on confessions obtained through torture; many United Nations workers have been killed under Israeli fire, so the targeting was hardly unprecedented. By then, though, much damage had already been done as Gaza enters an artificially imposed famine.

Flat-Out Lies

To Van Hollen’s credit, he dismissed the prevailing propaganda in no uncertain terms, calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s accusations against UNRWA “flat-out lies”. The open letter by Muslim community leaders applauds the senator’s stance and calls for the reinstatement of American funds, which comprised nearly a third of the agency’s pledged budget as of 2022. The European Union also restored funds to UNRWA, the letter quotes, after its humanitarian aid commissioner Janez Lenarcic found no corroboration for Israeli accusations. It also highlights the devastating impact of the war, even on Van Hollen’s considerable number of Muslim and Arab constituents: some 350 thousand Muslims, and nearly thirty thousand Arabs, live in Maryland.

“Here in Maryland, hundreds of our congregants have lost several members of their families,” the letter reads. “They have no pause in their grief as every day more people are losing their lives. Ramadan is not the same this year for so many of our communities.”

The letter also addresses the increased atmosphere of anti-Islamic sentiments, some of which have been pointedly stoked by official and semi-official Israeli platforms as part of a pattern of the Likud Party’s ideological history and political coalitions. Most shockingly, a six-year-old boy was murdered and his mother strangled by their landlord in Michigan explicitly for their Muslim faith only a few days after the Israeli campaign, with its rabble-rousing rhetoric, began. But more broadly, Israeli propaganda taps into and encourages a broader pattern of international anti-Muslim animus, violent and otherwise, that has gone on for years.

“The increased Islamophobia has impacted students, teachers and many of community members who dare speak up about their support for Palestine at work,” the letter goes on. “We are at a loss as the sin of paying for these massacres with our tax money weighs heavy on our hearts.” American support – financial, military, and diplomatic – has been a key bulwark of the Israeli state for decades: Tel Aviv is the biggest recipient of American foreign aid in the world.

Calling For a Just Solution

“As a retired educator, I recognize the need for our tax dollars to be invested in the education of our youth and the revitalization of our cities. The needs of our state are many, and I witness this daily as a resident of Baltimore. Maryland dollars must be reinvested in Maryland instead of being diverted overseas to commit atrocities against vulnerable populations. I appreciate your stance, speaking the truth about  Gaza, and I urge you to be relentless in the continued pursuit of justice,” states Ustadha C Islaah Abd’al-Rahim, who signed the letter to Senator Van Hollen. 

Though the United States has long portrayed itself as the guarantor of a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, such a skewed bias in favor of one side has consistently stood in the way of justice. The letter highlights the importance of a just solution to resolving the conflict: “We firmly believe that peace can only be achieved through justice and mutual respect.”

The letter concludes with a prayer, “May you be guided by the principles of compassion and justice as you work to support the rights and dignity of all people, including Palestinians.”



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