Day 173 roundtable: The battle for al-Shifa Hospital

Electronic Intifada - 27 March, 2024 - 20:29

Weekly news roundup (01:09); Ali Abunimah on the latest collapse of Israel’s “mass rapes” fraud (21:33); Jon Elmer analyzes Palestinian armed resistance in Gaza and West Bank (01:00:03); Discussion with Abdaljawad Omar on Palestinian resistance (01:49:14).

Paris school head resigns after death threats over Muslim veil row

The Guardian World news: Islam - 27 March, 2024 - 17:05

Anger from politicians across the spectrum as principal resigns ‘for security reasons’ after asking students to remove headscarves

French politicians from across the spectrum have expressed dismay over the resignation of a Paris school principal who had received death threats after asking a student to remove her Muslim veil on the premises.

In a show of support, prime minister Gabriel Attal, a former education minister, was set to receive the principal late on Wednesday, his office said.

Continue reading...

Too “Fast” For Football? French Footballer Mahamadou Diawara Leaves U19 Squad Over Fasting Ban

Muslim Matters - 27 March, 2024 - 09:10

by Ibrahim Moiz

Footballer Mahamadou Diawara has returned from the French national Under-19 squad in order to complete his Ramadan fast after the French Football Federation forced him into an exclusive choice. The move, indirectly discovered only after Diawara was spotted training at a club in his hometown Lyon, is the latest instance of France’s intrusive laïcité clashing head-on with the religious rights of its citizens and in particular Muslims.

Diawara, 19, was called up to the Under-19 squad last week for the 2024 Euro Elite U-19 tour. But his unwillingness to compromise his fast for the tour earned him the wrath of the football federation, which has long discouraged its considerable pool of Muslim players, many of West or North African background, from the fast during the season. Born in France of Malian descent, Diawara joined Lyon in summer 2023 and made his debut in the autumn of 2023, making this his first Ramadan in senior football. Given the ultimatum to postpone his fast, the teenager showed considerable resolve in standing his ground and was divested of his squad place as a result.

This hostility is neither new for French football where, as recently as last Ramadan, players were asked to postpone their fasts, nor for the French state, whose particularly punishing brand of secularism, laïcité, has long weighed particularly heavy on the country’s sizeable Muslim minority. Owing in large part to its colonial history in Africa, much of whose north and west was conquered in the nineteenth century, and wherein Paris continues to maintain controversially intrusive economic, political, and military interests as part of the so-called Francafrique, the historically autocratic Western European republic has one of Europe’s largest Muslim populations, estimated at about five million people.

French legislation and political campaigns have often disproportionately targeted Muslims in the minutiae of their personal and public lives. French politicians across the political spectrum, including incumbent ruler Emmanuel Macron, have also insisted on treating Islamic practice as part of a supposed “Islamist separatist” or “Islamo-leftist” project. The weaponization by both Macron and his political rivals of anti-Islam sentiments has even had international repercussions: in 2020 Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan, for instance, condemned these tactics before major anti-France protests in the country.

The Madagascar-born French rapper “Rohff” Housni M’Kouboi applauded Diawara’s moral fiber in a tweet, and pointed out that fasting does not necessarily impede physical activity and has often been observed by practical sportsmen. “Everybody,” he observed, “has their own stomach! They want to police the mind, the clothes, and now the stomach lol. They mix everything up under whose orders? In the name of what? Atheism? The secularism of December 9, 1905 [the date that France adopted its laïcité]?”

M’Kouboi noted that the rule fails its own standard: the same secularist edicts’ first article officially guarantees freedom of religion, and yet “they want blacks and Arabs without religion, without culture, without spices… Lol.”

In spite of this, French institutions have pressed ahead as if nothing is wrong. Representative of this sentiment was Federation president Philippe Diallo – himself the son of a boxer born in France’s then-colony Senegal – who described the circumstances of Diawara’s removal as part of a “framework of neutrality” that supposedly does “not modify the conditions of practice for our selections for religious purposes.” In practice, as so often in French secularism, this means a censure on Islamic practice. The teenaged Diawara is simply the latest to fall foul of France’s warped relation with its Muslim populace, but his moral fortitude gives as salutary an example as anything he might do on the pitch.



The Disenfranc(e)hisement Of Muslims And Why We Need To Stay Focused

Conflating Laïcité with Free Speech: The French Are Making a Mistake about Charlie Hebdo



The post Too “Fast” For Football? French Footballer Mahamadou Diawara Leaves U19 Squad Over Fasting Ban appeared first on

A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 16] What Endures? Reflections on Surat Taha

Muslim Matters - 27 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


What Endures? Reflections on Surat Taha

by Ust. Jinan Yousef


Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says,

The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.” [Surah Al Baqarah: 2;185]

As the Qur’an is meant to guide us, pondering upon its meanings, taking lessons, and following its guidelines is part of our faith in it. The verses I will reflect upon are in Surat Taha, in the 16th Juz of the Qur’an. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) begins Surat Taha with:

“Ta, Ha,”

“We have not sent down to you the Qur’an that you be distressed,”

“But only as a reminder for those who fear [ Allah ] – “ [Surah Taha: 20;1-3]

Towards the end, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says,


“And whoever turns away from My remembrance – indeed, he will have a depressed life, and We will gather him on the Day of Resurrection blind.” [Surah Taha: 20;124]

The beginning and the end of the chapter emphasize to us the role and effect of the Qur’an. The Qur’an is a reminder, not a cause of distress; in fact, turning away from the Qur’an is what results in a miserable life – here and in the Hereafter. But turning to the Qur’an is light and healing, in this world and the next. It connects us to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), reminds us of our purpose, helps us to prioritize, and strengthens and comforts our hearts.

In this article I will focus on when Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) uses the phrase “more enduring” (abqā) in Surat Taha.

The Tests and Temptations Of This World

Many will talk about how we are ‘wired’ to pursue pleasure and to eschew pain. While we may have certain tendencies, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) reminds us that,

And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference.” [Surah Al-‘Isra: 17;70]

Our soul has the potential for both good and evil, and we must work on ourselves in order to be of the people who choose good, even when it is uncomfortable or inconvenient. We rise above our base desires for a higher purpose. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says,

“And [by] the soul and He who proportioned it,”

“And inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness,”

“He has succeeded who purifies it,”

“And he has failed who instills it [with corruption].” [Surah Ash-Shams: 91;7-10]

Part of the reason why we may not always persevere through hardship or refrain from giving in to illicit temptations is forgetting what actually endures. The tribulation has an end, and so does the pleasure. None of these last. Holding on to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and holding on to the Truth necessarily provides us the fortitude to be able to see beyond.

More Enduring

In this chapter, there are four places where Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us what is more enduring (abqā); two in relation to what is better and more enduring [Surah Taha: 20;73,127], and two in relation to punishment that is more enduring [Surah Taha: 20;7,131).

The magicians

The first instance appears when Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us about the magicians. These were people called upon by Pharaoh to challenge the Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). When Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) performed the miracle of turning his staff into a snake, Pharaoh said,

“He said, ‘Have you come to us to drive us out of our land with your magic, O Moses?'”

“Then we will surely bring you magic like it, so make between us and you an appointment, which we will not fail to keep and neither will you, in a place assigned.” [Surah Taha: 20;57-58]

Pharaoh then gathered all the magicians in the land at the appointed time and place, where they all eagerly hoped to gain the favor of Pharaoh. While Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) warned them not to fabricate lies against Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), they proceeded with the challenge. The magicians did not appear to be the most upright people. After all, their profession was literally deceiving people! But when Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) threw his staff and it devoured theirs, the magicians recognized that it was not a simple trick. It was a miracle, and what Mus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was calling to was true. So, the magicians immediately fell down in prostration, declaring, “We believe in the Lord of Aaron and Moses!”

Pharaoh, of course, was outraged. He threatened them, saying

“[Pharaoh] said, “You believed him before I gave you permission. Indeed, he is your leader who has taught you magic. So I will surely cut off your hands and your feet on opposite sides, and I will crucify you on the trunks of palm trees, and you will surely know which of us is more severe in [giving] punishment and more enduring (abqā).” [Surah Taha: 20;71]

Here Pharaoh asserted that his punishment was more severe and more lasting. Indeed, what he was threatening them with what was an inhumane and tortuous death. It would have been natural – permissible even – for the magicians to apologize and to take back their words. However,

“They said, “Never will we prefer you over what has come to us of clear proofs and [over] He who created us. So decree whatever you are to decree. You can only decree for this worldly life.”

“Indeed, we have believed in our Lord that He may forgive us our sins and what you compelled us [to do] of magic. And Allah is better and more enduring (abqā).” [Surah Taha: 20;72-73]

The magicians countered Pharaoh’s assertion with the fact that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is better and more lasting. Despite the severity and immediacy of Pharaoh’s torment, they knew that what is with Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is better and more lasting. And they chose Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

The Hereafter

Towards the end of the chapter, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) again turns us to what actually lasts. After mentioning those who turn away from His remembrance, from the Qur’an, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says,


“And thus do We recompense he who transgressed and did not believe in the signs of his Lord. And the punishment of the Hereafter is more severe and more enduring (abqā).” [Surah Taha: 20;127]

In the previous verses, Pharaoh had told the magicians that his punishment was more severe and more lasting, whereas in this verse, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) affirms that His punishment, which is eternal, is far more severe and enduring. Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) punishment is for those who reject and transgress.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) then reminds the believers:


“And do not extend your eyes toward that by which We have given enjoyment to [some] categories of them, [its being but] the splendor of worldly life by which We test them. And the provision of your Lord is better and more enduring (abqā).” [Surah Taha: 20;131]

It is tempting to look at outward blessings that people have and desire those things. Desires create in us a drive to pursue. They can, when taken to an extreme, distract us from what is truly important and cause us to transgress. This is what caused the downfall of Qarun, for example, who “was from the people of Moses, but he tyrannized them.” [Surah Al Qasas: 28;76] In telling us not to look at and crave what people have of enjoyment in this world, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) also reminds us that these are tests. It is not that people enjoy these things without accountability; we will all be asked about how we used what was given to us. Whatever we have of provision can be used to remind us of His blessings upon us and come closer to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) or to forget Him and turn away from Him. And Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) reminds us: the provision of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) in Paradise is what remains.


As we go through challenges in life, as we sometimes ask why we do not have something while others do, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) reminds us in the Qur’an that this life is fleeting and temporary. If we truly want what lasts, we have to aim for the Hereafter. Sometimes it will be easy for us, and at other times it will be hard, and we will have to choose between matters. Sometimes we will succeed, and at other times we will fall short. With these verses, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) comforts us. Whatever we leave for His sake is never lost. Indeed, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said,

“Verily, you will never leave anything for the sake of Allah Almighty but that Allah will replace it with something better for you.” [Musnad Aḥmad 23074]  

Whatever you persevere through hoping for His pleasure, whatever you leave for His sake, remember that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is telling you that what He has for you is eternal provision. The conviction of the magicians helped them to withstand the torture of Pharaoh. And who knows what Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has prepared for them – for you – in the Hereafter?



Trust Allah in All of Your Affairs, and You Will Never Be Disappointed

Yahya Ibrahim | Life Lessons from Sūrat ṬāHā: “Shepherding – The Way of the Prophets”

The post A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 16] What Endures? Reflections on Surat Taha appeared first on

A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 15] The Night Is Darkest Before The Dawn

Muslim Matters - 26 March, 2024 - 09:51

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


The Night is Darkest Before the Dawn

by Naved Bakali



Now well in the midst of the month of Ramadan, we are reminded of the importance of our connection to the Quran. Ramadan is the month of the Quran. It was in this month that the Quran was revealed and based on the examples of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), the Sahaba [ranhuma], and the pious predecessors of the past, we understand the importance of renewing our connection with the Quran during these blessed days. When I read the Quran, I always try to remind myself that the lessons and stories contained in it are timeless, and just as applicable now as they were when they were first recited from the blessed lips of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Over the years, I have come to realize that, depending on the circumstances one is experiencing, the Quran will impact and speak to you in different ways. For many of us in the current moment, our minds and hearts are with our brothers and sisters in Gaza, who are enduring a genocidal onslaught and famine. It is with our brothers and sisters in Palestine and all over the world enduring oppression that I share some reflections from the 15th Juz of the Quran.

The 15th Juz is composed of two chapters; Surah Al ‘Israa (17th chapter) in its entirety, and most of Surah Al Kahf (18th chapter). These surahs are complementary to one another. Surah Al ‘Israa begins with the glorification of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and Surah Al Kahf begins with the praise of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Both surahs were revealed in Makkah and their revelations speak to the challenges and realities of that period. Lengthy commentaries and tafseer have been written on these two chapters of the Quran. For the purpose of this reflection, I’ll be selectively referring to brief portions of these surahs in attempts to draw lessons from them. From Surah Al ‘Israa I’ll be discussing the first verse and more critically, the timing of the event that this verse describes. Thereafter, I’ll engage in a discussion of Surah Al Kahf and one of stories therein.

Reflections on Surah Al ‘Israa


Verse one of Surah Al ‘Israa states:

“Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al- Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.” [Surah Al ‘Israa: 17;1]

Al Aqsa [PC: Cole Keister (unsplash)]

This verse is describing one of the most significant moments in the Seerah, known as Israa wa al-Mi’raj.  This was the moment when the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) engaged in his night journey from the Ka’bah in Makkah to Masjid al-Aqsa in present-day Jerusalem and from there ascended through the heavens to engage in a divine discourse with Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to receive the commandment of the daily prayers. There are differences of opinion as to the precise date of this event. According to Aisha raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her), the passing of Khadija raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) took place before the commandment of the daily prayers.1 As such, evidence suggests that the momentous event of Isra wa al-Mi’raj took place within the last 18 months of the Makkan period of the Sirah.2 It was around this time, in the 10th year of the Prophethood, that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) experienced immense social and emotional challenges. This is referred to as the year of sorrow in the Seerah literature. It was in this year that both the uncle of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), Abu Talib and the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) blessed wife Khadija raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) passed away, within 40 days of each other.3 Abu Talib and Khadija raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) represented the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) two pillars of support. Abu Talib, as the head of the Banu Hashim, the most renowned and a powerful clan of the Quraish, extended protection to his beloved nephew, which was essential in the tribal system of Arabia. Khadija raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) through her unwavering love and support of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and his mission, was his pillar of emotional support that he needed to endure the challenges of his mission. Upon their passing, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was in a vulnerable state and needed to look beyond Makkah for support. He traveled to the neighboring city of Ta’if, only to be repelled in the most vile and abhorrent fashion. Pelted with stones by the foolish riffraff of the city added to the grief and sorrow experienced by the prophet in these latter years of the Makkan period. In a tradition related in Bukhari, Aisha raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) had asked the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) if he had ever experienced a day more difficult than Uhud, to this, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) recounted how he was turned away from Ta’if. It was after the difficulties experienced throughout this year that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) in His Divine Wisdom willed that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) go on his miraculous night journey.

The Night Journey: A Tremendous Blessing after Hardship

As is described in Surah Al-Israa, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) had the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) engage in this journey so that He could show the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) some of His Divine signs. This was a miraculous journey into the world of the unseen, where the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) interacted with angels and other divine creatures, led all of the Prophets in prayer, ascended the heavens to greet a number of Prophets and receive council and advice from them, saw the rewards and punishments of the afterlife, had a meeting with the Divine beyond the furthest Lot Tree from behind a veil, and was gifted with the most central act of worship that Muslims were to perform. All earthly conceptions of time, space, and reality were defied on that journey. After experiencing the magnitude of the realm of the unseen and catching a glimpse of a world beyond the stretch of human imagination, how could the residues of worldly pain, concerns, and challenges dim a heart that was imbued with the light of these realities? The timing of this event gives credence to Allah’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) saying in the Quran:

For truly with hardship comes ease!

Truly with hardship comes ease! [Surah Ash-Sharh: 94;5-6]

As we watch our brothers and sisters in Gaza living through and experiencing a genocide in real-time, our Rohingya brothers and sisters languishing in refugee camps as survivors of a genocide, our Uyghur brothers and sisters being ethnically cleansed from their homeland in East Turkistan through imprisonment in concentration camps, and all of the other places around the world where Muslims are suffering and going through hardships and oppression, we may feel helpless and powerless. At times, we may feel that our prayers, sadaqah, letter campaigns, and protests don’t amount to anything. We should never lose hope and remain steadfast, as the first verse of surah Israa reminds us at its end, Truly, He is the Hearer, the Seer! All of our actions are important and a means for change to take place. Change may come about sooner or later. Regardless of the circumstances we see before us, it is paramount for us to take heed from the lessons of the Quran and to know that with these difficulties and hardships, ease will eventually follow in a way that is befitting to Allah. subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)

Surah Kahf


The Night is Darkest

Surah Kahf [PC: Hafizh Haqqani (unsplash)]

The second surah in the 15th Juz is Surah Kahf. Surah Kahf is situated right in the middle of our present-day mushaf. It is a surah that we are encouraged to recite every Jumu’ah, as a tradition relates thatWhoever reads Surat al-Kahf on the day of Jumu’ah, will have a light that will shine from him from one Friday to the next.” Furthermore, among the blessings of this surah is that the opening verses are a protection from one of the greatest fitan that Muslims will face, that of the Dajjal.4

There are four main stories in Surah Kahf: the story of the youth who fled to the cave; the man with the two gardens; the story of Musa and Khidr; and the story of Dhul-Qarnayn. Each of these stories are a treasure trove of lessons and priceless pearls of wisdom. For the sake of brevity, I’ll be reflecting on the first of these stories, from which the surah derives its name.

The Story of the Sleepers of the Cave: Placing this Life in Perspective

The story of the youths who sought refuge in the cave is recounted from verses 9-27 of Surah Al Kahf. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us of their story:

Or have you thought that the companions of the cave and the inscription were, among Our signs, a wonder? [Mention] when the youths retreated to the cave and said, “Our Lord, grant us from Yourself mercy and prepare for us from our affair right guidance.” So We cast [a cover of sleep] over their ears within the cave for a number of years. Then We awakened them that We might show which of the two factions was most precise in calculating what [extent] they had remained in time. It is We who relate to you, [O Muhammad], their story in truth. Indeed, they were youths who believed in their Lord, and We increased them in guidance. And We made firm their hearts when they stood up and said, “Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth. Never will we invoke besides Him any deity. We would have certainly spoken, then, an excessive transgression. These, our people, have taken besides Him deities. Why do they not bring for [worship of] them a clear authority? And who is more unjust than one who invents about Allah a lie?” [The youths said to one another], “And when you have withdrawn from them and that which they worship other than Allah , retreat to the cave. Your Lord will spread out for you of His mercy and will prepare for you from your affair facility.” [Surah Al Kahf: 18;9-16]

Classical sources of tafseer bring forth lots of opinions about the details of this story. However, I wanted to focus on the essence of the story encapsulated in the above verses. Ultimately, these youths were sincere people who feared persecution by their society. The threat was so serious that they were forced to hide away, seeking refuge in a cave. They sacrificed their homes, families, and all other comforts and attachments. Viewing this story from a materialistic perspective, these youths lost everything and were destitute. However, in reality, they preserved what was most important and essential. Their faith and beliefs. Our temporal existence when compared to the eternity of the next world, is but a drop in an ocean.

Though I’ve read this story hundreds of times over the years, in light of the deprivation and suffering happening to the people of Gaza, this story holds so much more meaning for me at this moment. It reminds me of the reality of how life can become unbearably difficult, to the point that we may be driven to caves in the mountains. This would be a miserable and pitiful situation to be subjected to by anyone’s reckoning. However, if one can hold fast to what is most important, to what gives meaning to life in this world and ultimate success in the eternal realm of the akhira, the situation described above is success.

Our brothers and sisters in Gaza’s persistence, steadfastness, and will to survive in the face of depraved oppression and brutality is an inspiration and reminder for the ummah of what success in its truest and most raw expression looks like. Their example brings this and so many other lessons in the Quran to life, placing the deceptions of this life in perspective with the realities of the next.



Overcoming Trials | The Message of Surah al Kahf

The Magnificent Journey: Al-Israa’ wal Mi’raaj


1    Ibn al-Athir, Usd al-Ghabah, vol. 7, p. 862    Yasir Qadhhi, The Sirah of the Prophet: A Contemporary Analysis3    Yasir Qadhhi, The Sirah of the Prophet: A Contemporary Analysis4    Al-Jami’ al-Sahih of al-Tirmidhi, 2190; Sunan Abu Dawud, 4321

The post A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 15] The Night Is Darkest Before The Dawn appeared first on

Between Japa And Sapa: Nigerians Unearth Ghosts Of Ramadan Past

Muslim Matters - 26 March, 2024 - 08:31

Iya Alhaja e dide nile, nitori Oloun, saari ti too gbo! 

Baba Alhaji e dide nile, nitori Oloun, nafila ti too ki!

The sound woke me up almost every day, long immeasurable minutes before my mum or Anti Sera, the maid, came to get us up for sahur. “Were”, sung by boys and young men in their early twenties, usually students in the local madrassahs, are irrevocably tied to my childhood memories of Ramadan. Going from street to street, singing with or without the accompaniment of drums, waking the neighborhood to prepare the sahur (for women) or pray supererogatory naafil (for the men) they were the communal wake-up call long before we all had handheld devices with inbuilt alarms. This art form would eventually devolve into Yoruba fuji music, but that is an entirely different subject.

At the time, my family lived in a three-bedroom flat in central Lagos. The compound had two or three buildings (we moved when I was nine, some details have fallen through the cracks of my memory) each with three levels, and three units on each level. With the norms of large family sizes and housing a myriad of distant relatives, there were probably over a hundred people living in that compound. A community unto itself, complete with a mosque just inside the gates, that high occupancy was most keenly noticeable in Ramadan.

From the increased attendance at salah, especially in the first half of the month, to the evening tafsir sessions held in the open expanse of the compound after ’asr every day. These culminated in communal iftar, a potluck-style event where people tried to outdo each other with the food and fruits they provided. We prayed maghrib in that air of fanfare, stomachs stuffed with local seasonal fruits (I was in my late teens the first time I saw a date), different assortments of paps, porridge, and foods we considered ‘snacks’ and placeholders – ogi, akara, moinmoin, tapioca, the list is endlessly varied. After maghrib, everyone retreated to their homes for proper foods, an array of carb-laden dishes that guaranteed half of us children were drowsy by halfway through ashamu (tarawih, in Yoruba.) Two minutes after we were carried or finally crawled into bed, the ‘were’ boys were at it again…


First year of boarding school, all of 11 years old, I was appalled to find out a lot of my Muslim classmates had never fasted before. The school also had no provisions for Ramadan. With a handful of other students, mostly older kids doing the actual work, we managed to extract a concession from the school for a modified meal timing. That was what we got: the standard school-issued breakfast at 4 am, and the cold dishes from lunch served alongside our dinner at 7 pm. Undeterred, we organized and encouraged, assigning different tasks to different students, talking the other kids into joining us. Six years later, when I was graduating, Ramadan was an unmissable event in that Muslim-(by a slight)-majority school. 

Nigerian (Abuja) mosque

Mosque in Abuja [PC: Habila Mazawaje (unsplash)]

Sahur and iftar meals were prepared on a proper, special menu, taking into account the types and quantity of food fasting teenagers needed. Quality, unfortunately, was a feature we’d all learned to give up on within a few weeks of admission. We also began, for the period of the month, to pray in congregation: fajr (after sahur), isha’ and tarawih for which we were exempted from night prep. Initially led by the few male Muslim teachers, we later had a group of student imams, from the few who could recite the Qur’an. Held out in the open assembly ground, the festive air of tarawih – and the dressing accommodation: girls could turn up in colorful wrappers and hijabs over the ugly brown of the school-mandated ‘house-wear’ – resulted in a number of students suddenly discovering long-lost ancestors that were Muslim in their family tree. Everyone was welcome.

For my generation of Nigerian Muslims, university was when we connected spiritually with the deen. Ramadhaan was a particularly heady time, drunk as we were on what we were learning: of aqeedah, and fiqh, and stories of the Prophets and his companions, and Arabic, tajweed, the proper ways of doing our ‘ibaadah… For the first time in our lives, Ramadhaan was more than food and festive community, and we threw ourselves into milking every possible good we could from the month. We ‘raced for the goodness of our Lord.’ Organizing and attending circles of learning, we read the Qur’an and many, many beneficial Islamic books. We spent hours in tarawih, and even longer in our personal qiyaam-u-layl. And we prayed, making elaborate dua’ lists weeks before the month started, to ask for everything we wanted: from good grades and a good life, to brother Abdullaah bin Abdullah (or sister Umm Sulaym) as our chosen partner in both Dunya and Jannah.


As a mother of young children just beginning to build a medical career, the spiritual rituals of my university days are what stayed with me the most. I did not belong to any neighborhood Muslim community like my parents had back in the day: Nigeria had gradually moved into the culture of gated estates, in the face of rising insecurity. Besides, with an early career in medicine and 2 kids under the age of 5, it was all I could do to complete the recitation of the Qur’an once in Ramadan and pray the Salafi-approved 11 raka’ah of my qiyaam. Sahur, iftar, tilaawah, qiyaam: Ramadan became a me-and-my-children affair occasionally accompanied by decorations or a new picture book. This isolation, the loss of community, would be worsened – rather ironically – by our family moving to Saudi Arabia.

In the early 2010s, Saudi life was very segregated and women existed, for the most part, in the domestic realm. This did not change during Ramadan. Unless you were in Makkah, Madina, or another big city, the masaajid remained a male realm. It would take several years of finding myself in this new place, and a move to Madina, to find places open to women for tarawih. And that was the extent of it; even regular halaqaat of hifdh closed for the month. Unless you went to the Haramain, Ramadhaan in Saudia was pretty much a private/familial affair, especially isolating for a foreign female-led household. I yearned for the Nigerian Ramadhaan of my childhood.


Dates [PC: Saj Shafique (unsplash)]

When you move away, though, home moves on, too. The march of time is relentless, and time has not been kind to the Nigerian economy. For Nigerians living in Nigeria, the Ramadans I kept alive in my memories are a thing of the past. Many of them answered my call on Twitter, sharing their childhood memories of the month. Mayowa Oladeji, who was born of an interfaith marriage and accepted Islam as a teenager had this to say, “Lagos in the 90s, sweltering under the Harmattan’s dusty caress, hummed with a different rhythm during Ramadan. I, a curious eight-year-old, wasn’t a Muslim at the time, but Ramadan was an annual spectacle that painted my childhood memories in vibrant hues.”

“The pre-dawn call to prayer, a haunting melody echoing through the labyrinthine streets, would jolt me awake. I’d peek out the window, mesmerized by the silhouettes of neighbors scurrying towards the mosque, prayer mats clutched under their arms. The day stretched long, punctuated by the aroma of steaming moin-moin and golden akara wafting from nearby kitchens…

Come sunset, the world transformed. The muezzin’s call, this time a joyous song, ripped through the lazy twilight. Laughter crackled like electricity as neighbors emerged from their homes, faces aglow with anticipation. The air buzzed with an infectious excitement, a communal joy I yearned to share.

The mosque courtyard, usually quiet, became a vibrant tapestry of activity. Colorful prayer mats covered the ground, children chased each other in gleeful abandon, and elders sipped on dates, their faces etched with contentment. As the call to Maghrib prayer resonated, I’d stand mesmerized, watching rows of people bow in unison, their voices rising in a collective hum of gratitude.

The communal feast that followed was a sensory explosion. Platters heaped with jollof rice, spicy stews, and mountains of fried chicken were passed around, eliciting delighted gasps and satisfied sighs. Laughter mingled with the clinking of cutlery, creating a symphony of joy that resonated long after the last morsel was devoured.

As the days of Ramadan unfolded, I absorbed its spirit. I learned the value of patience, the power of community, and the sheer joy of giving. The dusty haze of Harmattan became a backdrop for a season of generosity, where the true feast wasn’t just for the stomach but for the soul. Even today, the Ramadan moon evokes a childhood memory painted in warmth, laughter, and the sweet taste of togetherness, a reminder that joy can bloom even in the harshest of environments.”

Unlike Mayowa, looking as he was from the outside, one of the most common threads of childhood Ramadhaan memories mentioned by the respondents raised Muslim include getting treats, as kids, for participating in Ramadhaan rituals: tins of milk after tarawih, gifts for the one who fasted the most among siblings, monetary gifts for every day fasted – varying from family to family, Nigerian Muslims from across different parts and ethnicities made the children included and invested in Ramadhaan. 

The act of singing by madrassah boys to signify sahur time, called by different names in local languages, cut across geo-political zones. The communal tafsir / Islamic lecture sessions, after asr in some places, at night in others, was another recurrent memory. As is, by the overwhelming majority, the communal feel of iftar. Breaking the fast together as a community, potluck style so everyone brought what they could and no one went hungry appears to loom largest in the collective memory of Nigerian Muslims, home and in the diaspora.


Almost all of that is non-existent in the Nigerian Ramadhaan experience of today. The economic freefall and rising insecurity has driven the month more and more to an individual/family event, rather than a communal one. “People can no longer afford to feed other people,” Hawa says. “People no longer give gifts.” The Nigerians who can afford to, now exist behind locked doors and gates of their homes and estates; everyone is suspicious of everyone else. 

The communal iftar of our collective childhood memories have devolved into a spate of food distribution campaigns with unoriginal names and slogans. We assuage our guilt by donating money to ‘charities’ that display no transparency. And they hand out meal packages to the most desperate members of our community, the only ones who engage with those ‘Feed a Fasting Person’ type drives. Everyone else “no longer trusts enough to eat food from other people,” Hawa concluded.

Within the confines of their homes, too, Nigerians are not smiling with the impact of the economy on their Ramadan. “The abundance of fruits for iftar has almost been erased,’ Saeedah says. Rafeeah agrees, “the food options and variety…It costs too much now…” Gone are the days of pounding yam for sahur almost every day, and iftar spreads every night. Nigerians back home have had to adjust to a leaner, lonelier version of the month, just like those of us in the diaspora. 

And maybe there is space here for a conversation about moderation and the spirit of Ramadan, about focusing on spirituality and not food (or even community), about how full moon upon full moon would pass and there would be no cooking fire kindled in the house of Rasulullah. Or how many of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world – Palestine, Sudan, Yemen – do not have the little we take for granted. Yet for many Nigerians the nostalgia for the Ramadan of old lingers, even as we tighten our metaphorical girdles for the ones to come.

May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) make us from those who benefit from Ramadan.



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The post Between Japa And Sapa: Nigerians Unearth Ghosts Of Ramadan Past appeared first on

Desperate Tories, shameless lies

Indigo Jo Blogs - 25 March, 2024 - 23:49
A black-and-white picture of Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, a middle-aged clean-shaven Asian man. In this picture he has a noticeably dour expression.Sadiq Khan

Today the Tories published on their Twitter/X account a video claiming that Sadiq Khan’s London was the model for how the country would be governed if Labour were to win the forthcoming general election, and it is the most bizarre apocalyptic video I’ve ever seen from a mainstream political party. The video is in black and white and features a voice with a faint American accent telling us that London’s “ancient streets bear witness to a different tale, not of kings and queens but of crime and desperation” as a result of being governed by the Labour party. This itself is a dubious claim; the Tories have been in power for 14 years and the police have seen cuts during that time as has the rest of the public sector. But the video contains two outright lies, one of them libellous.

This is the first:

In the depths of these narrow passageways tread squads of ULEZ enforcers, dressed in black, faces covered with masks, terrorising communities at the beck and call of their Labour mayor.

ULEZ stands for Ultra Low Emission Zone and means that people who drive older cars that emit higher levels of pollution have to pay a charge to drive them in London. People living in London who own them have had to sell or alternatively accept a scrappage fee from the mayor’s office. This may seem harsh, but it’s about protecting people’s health; pollution from cars damages people’s lungs, and sometimes kills. ULEZ enforcement is mostly done through roadside cameras and sometimes with detector vans with the same cameras used in mobile speed cameras, the same as with the congestion charge and previous versions of the Low Emission Zone. The only people running round with masks are the people sabotaging ULEZ cameras and anything else perceived to be ULEZ infrastructure, including in some cases traffic lights. ULEZ was bipartisan until the Tories realised it was unpopular in outer London when it contributed to them winning the Uxbridge by-election unexpectedly; in fact, the government insisted that Khan expand the scheme to cover all of London as a way of paying back debts Transport for London ran up during the pandemic.

The video then claims that the streets of London are empty as a result of “a tax on driving implemented by their Labour mayor master”, which “forces people to stay inside or go underground”. Perhaps they mean to take the Underground, which is a rail system which serves much of central and north London. Nobody is forced to stay inside anymore; they weren’t even during the height of the coronavirus lockdowns when we were still allowed out to exercise and shop.

It continues:

Gripped by the tendrils of rising crime, London’s citizens stay inside. The streets are quiet; quieter at night now than they used to be. A 54% increase in knife crime since the Labour mayor seized power has the metropolis teetering on the edge of chaos.

The original version of this video included scenes shot in a New York subway station; that scene has been replaced in the version currently available. This doesn’t change the main issue with the claim, however.

The claim that the mayor seized power is simply a flat out lie, and indeed is libellous. The mayor won a free and fair election carried out under a Conservative government. Their candidate Zac Goldsmith might have stood a chance, but the party hired Lynton Crosby to run a divisive, racist campaign, accusing him of being friends with terrorists and of being a threat to Hindus’ jewellery collections and an enemy of India’s fascist PM Narendra Modi. Anyone who lives in London can confirm that people aren’t staying at home; they are going about their business and getting out and having fun, as much as they can given the cost of living crisis made much worse by Brexit. Maybe it’s true that the streets are quieter than they were before the pandemic, but pandemics do that; they change people’s habits, at least for a time.

The video then claims that Sadiq Khan favours decriminalising drug use, which may or may not be true, but Sadiq Khan also is not Labour leader or even an MP anymore. He alleges that when Labour is in power “crime goes up, justice goes down” and that in London “the scales of justice remain tipped in favour of the darkness, leaving them to navigate the shadows alone”. This has nothing to do with Khan but with the Tories’ cuts which have run down the court system, underpaid the legal profession until they went on strike, and caused delays of years to criminal trials; in some cases defendants jailed on remand have had to be released, because the lengthy imprisonment was deemed inappropriate for someone who had not been convicted.

Politicians telling lies is nothing new; usually the lies consist of stretching the truth somewhat, or making a possibility out to be a fact, or using words in an ideological way as if that were fact rather than opinion. This is a straightforward personal accusation and Sadiq Khan is quite entitled now to sue the party for libel. One wonders if the Tories have just lost the plot, or were motivated by desperation or arrogance to put out a video so riddled with brazen untruths.

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‘We’re the Muslim Spice Girls!’ Shazia Mirza on finding box office gold with her halal comedy supergroup

The Guardian World news: Islam - 25 March, 2024 - 16:23

After years as the only Muslim woman on the comedy circuit, the standup is now making history with a female touring troupe. She relives the attacks she faced on the way, from ‘letterbox’ burqa taunts to Isis allegations

For years, Muslim women have been the butt of the joke. We have been described as looking like “bank robbers” and “letterboxes” by the likes of Bernard Manning and Boris Johnson. And from Jack “take off your veils” Straw to Donald Trump, who said at least we “don’t have to put on makeup”, white men in power have continuously attacked us for cheap laughs.

We couldn’t retaliate. We were the voiceless, faceless, humourless, powerless underdogs of society. While white women operated in a variety of roles – pop stars, models, newsreaders, politicians – we were only ever seen baking cakes in a burqa or becoming Jihadi brides.

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Women need the mosque

Indigo Jo Blogs - 24 March, 2024 - 23:46
A picture of a large white mosque with three domes, one much bigger than the other two, and four minarets in the Turkish style. There is red scaffolding on part of the building. In the background are mountains, with a gap in the middle.The Namazgah mosque in Tirana, Albania

The issue of women’s access to the mosque and the inadequate space for women in many mosques in the UK has been a thorny issue in the community for decades, way back before blogs (though this blog has covered it in the past); the issue was covered in at least one issue of Q-News back in the day. Many mosques in the UK simply have no spaces for women to pray at all; many have a fraction of the space afforded to men, and often the space is inaccessible or inadequate: dingy, dirty, lacking ablution facilities, lacking access to the imam. The root of the problem seems to lie in the custom “back home” in India and Pakistan where it’s not usual for women to pray in the mosque and where the dominant scholarly understanding is that they should not. Earlier today I saw a brother who did not use an actual name, just a Twitter handle, post a long series of proofs for not allowing women into the mosque, or restricting their access to them, dismissing the women who objected as ‘emotional’ and being addressed by someone else as ‘Maulana’. Yet he failed to grasp the differences between the time when those narrations happened, and today, and it’s not just “that was such a better time than today”.

We aren’t living in a mostly Muslim country. We are (allegedly) three to four million out of seventy million in the UK. In Madinah, Kufah or Baghdad in the early centuries of Islam, there were Muslim institutions that were capable of attending to Muslims’ needs in one way or another. In the UK now, the major Muslim spaces in most towns and cities are mosques, or at least a mosque is their centrepiece — sometimes there is a canteen, a shop, various offices, a lecture hall, a clinic and a few other amenities but it will be called a mosque even if it’s officially titled the “Islamic Centre”. There are Muslim businesses such as restaurants, but those aren’t places many Muslim women consider it safe or appropriate to be. But the primary purpose of a mosque is a space to pray, and the prayer is a duty, and the prerequisites of a duty, the things that make it possible, are also duties. Yes, it’s permissible to put a prayer mat down anywhere, in the street or the office, but the mosque is a place designed for Muslims to offer the Islamic ritual prayer and the street is not. A mosque has a marked qibla (prayer direction) and a washing room designed for the ritual ablution; the street and office do not. Crucially, a mosque offers a place where prayer can be offered without distraction or interruption; the street does not. The street is not even a safe place to pray in many places, especially for women.

There is another reason that perhaps did not apply in the time of the early Muslims: in England in particular, we have a short day in the winter time and there are three prayer times within about four hours in the afternoon. If a family is making a shopping trip, for example, to kit out a new home, they will likely need to pray at least once. Some shopping centres have prayer rooms, but most do not. How can it be justified to allow the men to perform their duty but not the women? Of course, women work, and some of these jobs really need doing by a woman, so the demand that they should “just stay home” does not hold any water. Some women are converts who actually need to go to the mosque as their families will not tolerate their salaat; others have homes that are not peaceful and they cannot count on being able to pray undisturbed. Others are homeless.

Women do not have to attend the mosque to the same degree men have to. The Friday congregational prayer, in particular, is not compulsory for them. However, a congregational prayer is the principal opportunity people have to hear the Qur’an being recited properly by a human voice rather than a tape of it and to receive in-person Islamic education or counsel, and to pray in the company of other Muslims undisturbed. We all know that the company of practising Muslims is important for maintaining iman; the mosque is where many of us meet other Muslims and make friends. It’s also important for receiving good advise and correcting mistakes that might not come to anyone’s attention if women just did what these men think they should and prayed at home. In a situation where Muslims are a minority, the justifications these men provide for denying women access to the mosque do not hold any water. It’s a practice which is damaging to the community.

Back in the early 2000s, there was a book published called “Port in a Storm” by Shaikh Nuh Keller, demonstrating that the correct direction of prayer in North America was north-east rather than south-east, as this was the straight line to Makkah in light of the curvature of the earth. I thought this was a strange position to take given that Makkah is both south and east of anywhere in the USA, and mentioned to a brother at a gathering that this ruling would mean that the qibla in some places, such as Seattle, would be more north than east. “Would the salaf (early Muslims) have done such a thing?” I asked a brother. “The salaf weren’t living in Seattle,” he responded. The salaf also weren’t living in England where three prayer times occur between 12 noon and 4pm in the winter, and were the powerful group in their society at all times except when in Makkah in the first few years of the mission. They were not vulnerable. The mosque was not the only Muslim space and there was not the need for it that there is here. Any organisation running a mosque that clings to Subcontinental custom and refuses Muslim women the benefits of access to the mosque is failing to serve its community’s needs and obstructing people from fulfilling their duties in Islam. And Allah knows best.

Image source: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, via Wikimedia. Released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (BY-SA) 4.0 licence.

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