Michael Gove’s definition of extremism will shut down vital debate | Observer editorial

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 March, 2024 - 06:30

Whether something is racist or homophobic, or threatens parliamentary democracy, should be obvious without government labelling

How do you define extremism? That depends on whether you want a definition with which most people can agree, or one that is meaningful. A definition acceptable to most people must necessarily be broad and bland. One that has more meaning will inevitably be controversial and contested.

And therein lies one of Michael Gove’s problems in his new definition of extremism. Such a definition is either unnecessary or it creates the very problems it is supposed to solve.

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Earl Spencer and early boarding

Indigo Jo Blogs - 17 March, 2024 - 04:58
 how I was sexually abused at just 11 by school matron" with the sub-heading "Earl Spencer reveals, in devastating memoir, how trauma left lifelong toll"

Last Sunday the Mail printed extracts from a new book by Earl (Charles) Spencer, the brother of the late Princess Diana, on his time at a private boarding school in England called Maidwell School (the school claims it has changed, but still offers two-weekly boarding for children as young as seven) which he attended between ages eight and 13; he experienced sexual abuse from a female staff member he described as a “voracious paedophile” while the then headmaster dished out “brutal beatings” and appeared to gain sexual pleasure from doing so. Early boarding — sending children to boarding school from primary age — has been a norm among the British aristocracy for generations and for many years this was inflicted on disabled children also, with schools for the blind, deaf etc taking in children from as young as four or five for their entire school lives; this practice has ended in this country, but it still goes on (albeit to a lesser degree than in the past) among the aristocracy. The practice of early boarding has received a greater degree of criticism than senior boarding, because it involves taking children from usually stable and functioning families and putting them in loveless institutions when they very much still need the love and attention of their parents. In the years since the Tories returned to power, the effect these places have on the men these boys become has been widely held up to scrutiny also.

I was in a boarding school from ages 12 to 16 and although I neither experienced nor witnessed serious sexual abuse, and none by any member of staff (although such things had happened earlier in the school’s history, resulting in some of the perpetrators doing prison time and one killing himself when police showed up), physical abuse was common as I have detailed here many times. What was more common than that was open and unchecked bullying; fifth-form prefects behaving like utter louts, punching and kicking boys in front of members of staff who did nothing, and in one incident I recall jumping on a first-year boy in the corridor and bellowing “keep your f***ing language down!”. The school boasted that it relied on “tried-and-tested old-fashioned methods” and that it was “structured and disciplined”, which I realised was a lie when I was made to live there; it was extremely chaotic and indisciplined, the only real ‘discipline’ was violence or the threat of it and mostly meted out to small boys. Certain members of staff were able to hold a civilised conversation with the more adult-like teenage boys (which there were more of, because few boys started at the start of secondary school but would mostly start in the middle of years 7, 8, or even 9, and because many were kept down a year, finishing year 11 at age 17 rather than 16) but were rude and dismissive when younger boys tried to engage them, especially if they made demands because of, say, bullying.

While I agree that early boarding must be condemned, we should consider “early boarding” to mean pre-pubescent boarding, not only primary-age (up to 11) boarding. When children enter secondary school at age 11, they do so very much as children. Boys, especially, are usually not even approaching puberty and are frequently smaller than most grown women. When they leave, they are adults in fact if not in name. By lumping these two groups together and expecting them to inhabit the same space, we endanger the actual children: they come to be seen as ‘youths’ whose misbehaviour is treated as more threatening than it actually is, and who require ‘discipline’ that would not be meted out to a child a year or so younger, but who are much easier to push around than someone in their mid teens who are, in the case of boys, sometimes as much as six feet tall; they thus become easy targets for the aggression of staff frustrated with dealing with older teenagers. Putting these two groups together is to give a group of adults free access to children but with none of the professional standards required of paid staff. This age range might have seemed like a good idea in the 1940s when compulsory secondary education was first introduced in the UK and the leaving age was 14, but it rose twice by the mid 1970s and the more of these unaccountable young adults you introduce, the more top-heavy the school’s population becomes and the more the staff’s time and skill set has to be oriented towards them.

In a boarding school, this age range is a recipe for disaster. Children have a right to their family, and parents have a duty to parent; no child should be separated from their family unless the family itself is the cause of harm. If a child is in a happy home and not being abused by anyone, why risk changing this by sending them to a boarding school which might change that as soon as your back is turned? Add to this the fact that pre-teen boys are a favourite target for a certain type of paedophile, and the paedophile may not be the stereotypical guy in a dirty mac but the illustrious, cultured teacher who can write beautifully and play a dozen musical instruments whom any school that did not know better would consider a most valued member of staff and on past experience might turn a blind eye even if they suspected something was wrong. There is really no educational benefit and certainly no social cachet that can justify subjecting a child to any of this. Their place is at home, with their families, and it was about time this was recognised in law.

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[Podcast] Reorienting for Ramadan | Ustadh Abu Amina (Justin Parrott)

Muslim Matters - 15 March, 2024 - 20:46

The week before Ramadan, and the first week of Ramadan, can feel like a scramble of trying to be “prepped” just enough – from iftar menus to prayer schedules, balancing school and work, and so much more. How do we avoid being overwhelmed by it all?

Ustadh Justin Parrott sat with Zainab bint Younus and Irtiza Hasan to  provide a Ramadan reorientation reminder on how we can maximize our Ramadan by holding onto just a few basic, important principles.

Justin Parrott has BAs in Physics and English from Otterbein University, an MLIS from Kent State University, and an MRes in Islamic Studies from the University of Wales. He is currently Research Librarian for Middle East Studies at New York University in Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), Research Fellow for Yaqeen Institute, and Instructor for Mishkah University. He served as a volunteer Imam for the Islamic Society of Greater Columbus until 2013. He is currently the faculty advisor and volunteer Imam for the Muslim Students Association at NYUAD.


The Prophet’s Golden Rule: Ethics of Reciprocity in Islam

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Palestinians hold first Friday prayers of Ramadan amid rubble of Gaza mosque – video

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 March, 2024 - 15:57

A group of Palestinians in Gaza held their first Friday prayers of Ramadan amid the rubble of a mosque in Rafah destroyed by an Israeli airstrike last month

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IOK Ramadan: Can You Give What You Love? | Keys To The Divine Compass [Ep4]

Muslim Matters - 15 March, 2024 - 11:00

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

Juzʾ 4: Can You Give What You Love?

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 92 from Surah Āl-i ‘Imrān (Sūrah 3) in which Allah (swt) says, “You will never achieve the height of goodness, righteousness, piety until you spend from that that which you love, and whatever you spend then indeed Allah is aware of it.” This verse is instructive to all of us when it comes to the mindset we are supposed to adopt when giving charity, when giving in the path of Allah (swt).

There is a narration associated with this verse, of Abū Ṭalḥa (R), one of the earliest Muslims from the Anṣār and the leader of the Khazraj, who was part of the ‘Aqabah pledges before the migration of the Prophet (pbuh) to Madinah. He was one of the wealthiest individuals of Madinah, and he had a garden that was named Bīr-Ḥā’, the location of which would be in the rear area of the Masjid of the Prophet (pbuh) today. It was a very beautiful garden that had clean water, beautiful trees, and the Prophet (pbuh) would come to love to sit there and drink its water. When Abū Ṭalḥa (R) heard this verse after it was revealed, he made the intention to give his entire garden away in charity. He came to the Prophet (pbuh) and said, ‘I wish to give this garden in charity’. The Prophet (pbuh) was surprised but pleased, and he advised that instead of giving it in charity he should distribute it amongst his closest family members first. In other words, give it as charity to the people closest to you.

This verse is instrumental for us because Allah (swt) is addressing a very key point, a mindset that we might adopt sometimes–subconsciously–when it comes to giving charity. We may think that charity is something that we give from the extra, is something that we give from what we do not want anymore, that which no longer holds any value or never held any value to us but might be valuable to others. Yet, Allah (swt) says that to achieve the heights of goodness and piety, you must fight and disassociate yourself from the things you are attached to. The scholars say that the word ‘bir’ in the verse can be literally translated as good, but it refers to Jannah, that you will never be able to achieve Jannah until you are able to part from the things that you have a love for. When we give something, for example donating clothes, how often do we give clothes that we no longer wear? The clothes that are ripped, the clothes that have been neglected in the back of the closet, the clothes that were already going to be thrown out but now we decide to give it away to charity. How often do we look at the clothes that we wear, some of the more valuable ones, some of the ones that we love and are favorites, and we take one of those items and give it away to charity? How often do we buy things that are new and give them to charity?

This mindset helps a believer not form attachments to their wealth. What we own is that which Allah (swt) has given me from His blessings, but I will not allow those blessings to cloud my judgment. I will not allow those blessings to become an obstacle through which I am unable to achieve Jannah. I will not allow them to help me stay away from achieving the heights of piety that I can achieve otherwise. It is something that all of us should keep in mind in the month of Ramaḍān as we gear up to give charity every day, that yes –when we give $1, $10, or anything else, we are parting with something that we love. We love our money, we love our possessions, we love the things that Allah (sawt) has given us, but when we give, we actively fight against the impulse of ‘I am the owner of it’. It is not the owner of me, it has no value to me, rather when it is given away it adds value for me, that perhaps I can achieve Jannah through this.

So, when we are giving in the month of Ramaḍān our goal should be ‘Oh Allah, I am parting from things that I love for your sake, ‘I am parting from the things that I have a love for only for your pleasure’. When we give physical items in charity our goal should be to give from the best that we have. It might not always be possible, but we should try to give from the best we have because we do not want to be standing in front of Allah on the day of judgment and have Allah tell us, that yes you gave but you gave from the things that you no longer needed, you gave from the things that you would have thrown out, and you gave it feeling very generous when that is not really generosity. Allah (swt) says that whatever you spend He is aware of it, even if it is little. Allah (swt) knows that if it was a non-believer, then perhaps they would not have parted with it, but you did because you wanted the pleasure of Allah.

May Allah (swt) guide, bless, protect us all, and give us the ability to give charity from the things that we love for His sake and for His love, Ameen. Assalāmu ‘Alaykum wa Raḥmatullāhi wa Barakātuh.

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Diaba Konaté loves France. But a hijab ruling stops her playing there

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 March, 2024 - 09:00

The point guard is a talented prospect. But the French Federation of Basketball’s ban on religious headwear means she cannot play in her hometown of Paris

The energy radiating from Diaba Konaté is palpable, even over our transatlantic Zoom chat. The wide-smiling college star has dreamed of playing basketball in the States ever since she was a young girl. She moved to the US from France in December 2018 on a full scholarship from Idaho State University, later transferring as a junior to the University of California, Irvine.

The 23-year-old point guard’s collegiate highlights include averaging 8.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.2 steals per game as a junior, ranking among the top-30 in the nation with her free-throw percentage, and tying eighth in single-season school history with 63 steals. She also reached 1,000 points in her collegiate career after dropping a season-high 20 against UC Santa Barbara in February 2023.

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IOK Ramadan: The Quran is a Compass | Keys To The Divine Compass [Ep5]

Muslim Matters - 15 March, 2024 - 04:47

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

Juzʾ 5: The Qur’an is a Compass

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 82 from Sūrah al-Nisā’ (Sūrah 4) in which Allah (swt) says, “Do they not ponder over the Qur’an, if the Qur’an had been from anyone other than Allah (swt) then they would have absolutely found within it many inconsistencies and mistakes.” The words of the Qur’an are the words of Allah (swt), and the words of the Qur’an are perfect just like the Perfection of Allah (swt) as He is the only being who can claim Perfection. The words of the Qur’an are so majestic and miraculous, that despite being in their language and being familiar with its conventions, the Quraysh were unable to reconcile how such a superior text (which they were unable to replicate) came to be recited on the tongue of someone who was illiterate i.e., the Prophet (pbuh). They were unable to challenge the miraculous linguistic aspect of the Qur’an, but it is a greater miracle because of what it contains.

The words of the Qur’an give us purpose and direction, it tells us the reason why Allah (swt) has given us an existence in this world for 70, 80, 90 plus years. Allah (swt) has given us an objective, has given us a reason as to why we are here, and what to do with the time that we are given.

 If the words of Allah (swt) are Perfection and the teachings of Allah (swt) are Perfection, therefore, in addition to giving us purpose and objective, the Qur’an also provides us with objective morality. The Qur’an tells us what is right and wrong, and how to think about good and evil. Allah (swt) tells us what the red lines are supposed to be for the believer. Morality, if kept under the purview of human beings who are imperfect, whose intelligence is limited, whose biases are inherent, then we are going to be unable to come up with anything that is objective. Our morality would then be subjective, and we would think of good as good only if it suited us, and we would argue for the things that are evil when it suited us. We would essentially change things around because morality, right and wrong, its definitions, would be subject to our whims and desires and subject to what society thinks about certain things at certain times. Yet Allah (swt) has made it very clear and has informed us of what is right and wrong, because the Qur’an is al-Furqān–that which allows us to distinguish between good and wrong.

 In addition to providing purpose, direction, and objective morality, the Qur’an also gives us a civilizing ethos. The Qur’an teaches us and the laws of the Sharī‘ah teach us how to govern ourselves in the most harmonious way possible when it comes to the individual vis-à-vis each other, when it comes to the individual vis-a-vis their creator Allah (swt). Allah (swt) has given us rules and regulations and the Sharī‘ah emphasizes the community, emphasizes the bigger units of collectivity, so beyond the individual we have the family, beyond the family we have the community, beyond the community we have the society, etc. At every level, Allah (swt) and the Prophet (pbuh) encourages us to come together because there is strength in numbers. There is a purpose in coming together because the believers are like one body as the Prophet (pbuh) said, yet when there are a lot of people together, and even when there are two people together there might be conflict. There is potential for conflict, for self-interest, so how do you navigate self-interest and prioritize the communal objective and the rights of the other? The Qur’an through its content teaches us a civilizing ethos, that we are not just encouraged to come together but we are also given standards, rights, and regulations that allow us to communicate, regulate the interactions that we have between the different units of society. Allah (swt) teaches us how to govern ourselves in the best way possible because Perfection comes from Allah (swt).

 The Qur’an also gives us perspective during times of difficulty. Pondering over the verses of the Qur’an allows us to understand the difficulties that we are experiencing–directly or indirectly–in our lives at any given moment. Over the past five months all of us have witnessed the horrifying atrocities in Gaza, but the verses of the Qur’an have given us comfort. Allah (swt) has given us the knowledge of what is yet to come, that the Judgment of Allah (swt) is inescapable, that the people who are suffering are having their ranks elevated and that they are martyrs. Allah (swt) reassures us that whatever they undergo in this world will be nothing in comparison to the rewards that they will receive on the day of judgment. For those of us who are still remaining and are witnesses to it and feel helpless, because we might be doing something, but we also acknowledge that we do not feel we are doing everything that we can. Instead of being paralyzed by our inability to affect change, Allah (swt) reminds us of who is in control, reminds us of the limitations that we have, reminds us not to stay back and do nothing. Perspective during times of difficulty allows us to navigate this realm of chaos, this existence that is filled with difficulty, trials, and tribulations.

 Lastly, Allah (swt) gives us guidelines. So, Allah (swt) not just gives us purpose, direction, objective morality, a civilizing ethos, and perspective during times of difficulty, but for every step of the way there are instructions. There is guidance from Allah (swt), there is encouragement from Him. “Do they not ponder over the Quran?” We do not want to be from those people that Allah (swt) addresses rhetorically because all the answers are here. Allah (swt) has given it to us and all we must do is reach out and take it.

May Allah (swt) allow us to be people of the Qur’an, allow us to be people who ponder over the Revelation, who ponder over the contents of the Qur’an, and not just on a theoretical level but apply it to our lives as well. Assalāmu ‘Alaykum wa Raḥmatullāhi wa Barakātuh.

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A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 3] What Is True, And What Matters

Muslim Matters - 15 March, 2024 - 04:42

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 is True, and What Matters

By Wael Abdelgawad


Dania leaned back on the stool, rubbed her eyes, and turned to speak to Rawan. Except that her young Muslim colleague wasn’t there. Dania scanned the handful of lab stations, all dedicated to testing water samples for the presence of a wide spectrum of contaminants. Her eyes went to the clock: 1 pm. Wow, the day was half gone. Rawan was no doubt eating lunch.

An entire morning staring into a microscope and typing notes on a keyboard could do a number on you. Dania’s back was stiff, her eyes tired, and her hands were like chicken feet. Now that she was in her 30s, these things seemed to bother her more. She was 35 and unmarried, which in her Egyptian Christian family was a disgrace. She’d dated plenty of boys, but… The Egyptian-American men all seemed shallow. Money and girls, that was all they cared about. And some were as prissy as women.

As for the American boys, it never worked. Dania’s family were dedicated members of the Coptic church. They attended Sunday services as well as Matins and Vespers on Saturdays and Wednesdays. All their friends were Copts, and when they got together socially the conversation was in Arabic, and consisted of a combination of gossip and talking bad about Muslims. It was too foreign a world for American boys to fit into.

In fact, it was a world that left Dania herself feeling bored and empty. At services, the Bible reading was in Arabic. But Dania, though she was fluent in Egyptian conversational Arabic, could not read the language. Then the Liturgy of the Word was in Coptic, which no one but the priest could understand, and probably not even him.

She’d tried taking up guitar, but it was painful and time-consuming. Nowadays she spends most of her time in this lab, working twelve-hour days.

She removed the elastic band from her hair, letting her red curls fall loose. By some freak of genetic circumstance had been born with milk-white skin, flaming hair, and green eyes. Americans never believed that she was Arab. Oops… Coptic. Her parents would have seizures if they heard her refer to herself as Arab. Which was so weird. She spoke Arabic, she came from an Arab country. But she’d been lectured many times: “We are Copts, not Arabs. We are the true Egyptians, the word ‘Egypt’ means Copt!’”

She wandered into the break room. Her parents were there, as well as her brother, all still wearing white lab coats as they ate stuffed cabbage leaves, lentil soup, and saffron rice. She did half the work in this lab, yet no one had even called her to come for lunch. 

This entire lab belonged to her father, Boulos Khalil. Their clients were mostly large corporate farms. The lab had done well. Her family was wealthy. 

“I still don’t think it’s right what’s happening to the Palestinians,” her brother said in English. He was five years younger than her, lean, and clean-cut.

Her father grimaced. “What do we care,” he replied in Arabic, “about a bunch of terrorists in the desert? What do you think Hamas would do with us Copts? They would slaughter us like black sheep.” Her dad had been in America a long time, but had never learned English well.

Her brother shook his head. “I don’t think so. There are Palestinian Christians too, they’re integrated.”

“Stop worrying about the Arabs and the Muslims,” her mother said. “Leave them in their mess. Their religion is evil. All they know how to do is oppress and destroy.” Her mother was as elegant and graceful as she’d been as a teenager, but was so full of anger and bitterness. Every day it was the same thing, running down the Muslims, and vilifying their religion. It was very old-world and tiresome.

“I hope Rawan doesn’t hear you talking like that.”

“Oh, Dania! Come and eat.” Her mother waved to an empty chair at the table.

“No. That’s alright. I’ll go see what Rawan is doing.” She walked to the exit door.

“Dania!” her mother called after her.

Dania found Rawan in the small garden at the center of the office park. The mid-twenties hijabi sat on the grass, engrossed in her reading. She was a small woman of Iraqi origin, skin the color of Arabic coffee and with big, dark eyes. Rawan had come to work at the lab a year ago, and Dania had always found her fascinating. Rawan was a near genius, yet she liked to laugh. She was assured, but not cocky. She tended to keep to herself, and who could blame her, considering the work environment?

Dania sat beside her and stretched her arms to the sky, reveling in the feeling of the soft grass against her skin, and the sun on her face.

“How come you’re not eating?”

Rawan marked her spot in the book, which Dania saw now was the Quran, then adjusted her blue headscarf. “Ramadan started last week. I’m fasting.”

“Oh, right! I knew that. How’s it going?”

“Really good, alhamdulillah.”

“Listen, Rawan…” Dania picked a blade of grass and put the end in her mouth. “I’m sure you’ve heard my family sometimes. How they talk… I feel ashamed. I can’t understand why my father hired you when he feels like that about Muslims.” Realizing what she’d said, she hurried to explain. “I mean, I’m glad he hired you! It just surprises me.”

Rawan grinned. “Mr. Khalil hired me because I have a bachelor’s in organic chemistry, a master’s in environmental sciences, and I speak English, Arabic, and Spanish. And he pays me well, so hey, no worries. You know what your dad always says: ‘American is American. Zis mean – ‘”

“Business is business!” The two women finished in unison, and both laughed. One of the many Boulos-isms that barely made sense, perhaps not surviving the translation from Arabic to English.

Dania nodded to Rawan’s copy of the Quran. “What were you reading about?”

“Oh.” Rawan’s brow furrowed. “I don’t like to talk about religion at work, especially considering…”

“Considering my family.” Dania sighed. “It’s okay. I really want to know.”

Rawan opened the Quran to the bookmarked page and handed it to Dania. “The Quran is divided into thirty parts, and I’m trying to read a part each day. Today I’m reading a chapter called Aal Imran, the family of Imran.”

“Who is Imran? One of Muhammad’s relatives?”

“No. Read it, you’ll see. Start at verse 33.”

Dania swallowed the blade of grass she’d been chewing – a habit she’d had since she was a kid – and studied the book. It had Arabic on one side of the page and English on the other. She found verse 33 and read the English part:

  1. Indeed, Allāh chose Adam and Noah and the family of Abraham and the family of ʿImrān over the worlds –

  2. Descendants, some of them from others. And Allāh is Hearing and Knowing.

  3. [And mention] When the wife of ʿImrān said, “My Lord, indeed I have pledged to You what is in my womb, consecrated [for Your service], so accept this from me. Indeed, You are the Hearing, the Knowing.”

  4. But when she delivered her, she said, “My Lord, I have delivered a female.” And Allāh was most knowing of what she delivered, and the male is not like the female. “And I have named her Mary, and I seek refuge for her in You and [for] her descendants from Satan, the expelled.”

Dania frowned. “Which Mary? Our Mary? The Christian Mary, I mean?”

“Mm-hmm. The very same.”

Dania was confused. She was reading the Quran, and it was talking about Mary. In all the times she’d heard her parents insult Islam, its Prophet, its book, and everything else, she’d never heard them mention anything about Muslims believing in Mary.

She read on. The Quran went on to describe Mary’s seclusion and her care by Zakariyyah, and some angels bringing Zakariyyah and his wife the news that they would have a son, which would be Yahya. Dania knew this was the Arabic name of John the Baptist.

The next verse made her eyes widen:

  1. And [mention] when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed Allāh has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds.

“Are you serious? You guys worship Mary like we do?”

“No. We revere her as a great woman. A woman of God. But we don’t pray to anyone but God. No son, no saints, none of that.”

“Sounds… uncomplicated.”

Rawan shrugged and smiled. “I suppose. Islam is a natural religion. Very pure.”

Dania read:

  1. O Mary, be devoutly obedient to your Lord and prostrate and bow with those who bow [in prayer].”

  2. That is from the news of the unseen which We reveal to you, [O Muḥammad]. And you were not with them when they cast their pens as to which of them should be responsible for Mary. Nor were you with them when they disputed.

  3. [And mention] when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed Allāh gives you good tidings of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary – distinguished in this world and the Hereafter and among those brought near [to Allāh].

  4. He will speak to the people in the cradle and in maturity and will be of the righteous.”

  5. She said, “My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?” [The angel] said, “Such is Allāh; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.

  6. And He will teach him writing and wisdom1 and the Torah and the Gospel

  7. And [make him] a messenger to the Children of Israel, [who will say], ‘Indeed I have come to you with a sign from your Lord in that I design for you from clay [that which is] like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird by permission of Allāh. And I cure the blind [from birth] and the leper, and I give life to the dead – by permission of Allāh. And I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your houses. Indeed in that is a sign for you, if you are believers.

  8. And [I have come] confirming what was before me of the Torah and to make lawful for you some of what was forbidden to you. And I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, so fear Allāh and obey me.

  9. Indeed, Allāh is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. That is the straight path.'”

Dania read on to verses 59 and 60:

  1. Indeed, the example of Jesus to Allāh is like that of Adam. He created him from dust; then He said to him, “Be,” and he was.

  2. The truth is from your Lord, so do not be among the doubters.

With trembling hands, Dania replaced the bookmark, closed the Quran, and handed it back to Rawan. “I don’t know what to say. There are details here about Jesus that are not even in the Bible. And… It’s clear. I always found it confusing in the Bible how Jesus calls himself the son of man, and humbles himself, yet we Christians claim he is God. Your book is consistent. It’s not what I expected at all.”

“Would you like to hear part of it in Arabic? Just to know what it sounds like?”

Dania nodded. “Sure.”

Rawan began to recite. She had a mellow voice, and it was pleasant to listen to. Dania began to notice that this book sounded very different out loud from the Arabic Bible. There was a rhythm and rhyme to it that was captivating, and the language was very high level. Dania was actually able to understand most of it, but it was like listening to poetry composed by the archangel Gabriel himself, if Gabriel were a poet. The language, and Rawan’s beautiful recitation, reached inside Dania’s chest and struck her heart, making it ring like a gong. For the first time in a long time, her heart didn’t feel like an empty room. The Quran flowed into it and filled it up. Dania felt like she was sitting in a boat on a calm river, drifting as the sun shined down on her, growing steadily brighter and hotter…

Something broke inside Dania and she began to weep. Embarrassed, she stood quickly and returned to the lab, where she washed her face in the restroom. Her father and brother had apparently gone on a purchasing run, and her mother was alone in the break room, using a compact mirror to adjust her makeup.

Her mother looked up. “What happened? Why are your eyes red?”

Dania paused, thinking. “Have you ever read the Quran?”

Her mother grimaced. “Of course. I attended public school in Cairo as a child, we all had to learn some of it.”

“What did you think of it?”

“I hated it. The teacher used to hit our palms with a ruler if we did not memorize.”

“Okay, but I mean the book itself. What did you think?”

“What are these ridiculous questions? By the Messiah, I don’t understand you. You are 33 years old, when will you get married and -”

“I was reading it just now,” Dania interrupted. “The Quran, I mean. You know what? It seemed true to me.” Dania brushed her hair out of her eyes. “It seems like the truth.”

Her mother flicked her hand dismissively. “That girl, Rawan. I told your father not to hire her. As soon as he gets back I will tell him to -”

“If she goes, I go. And you’re missing my point. I said it seems like the truth.”


“What do you mean, so?”

“I mean, so what?”

“You don’t disagree?”

Her mother tilted her chin, saying nothing.

Dania opened her palms. “You don’t have an opinion? You always have an opinion. I said it seems like the truth.”

Her mother slammed her palm down onto the table, making Dania jump. Her mother was like an ice sculpture, she never lost her cool. Yet as Dania stared, stunned, her mother began to shout:

“Of course it is true! Do you think we are stupid? I know the Quran very well. It is Arabic of another level. Islam keeps growing everywhere, do you think it’s an accident? Soon they will outnumber Christians. Of course, Muhammad was a Prophet, it’s obvious. Of course, he was the one that Jesus told us would come. Any intelligent person has to recognize it. But so what, my dear Deedee, so what?”

Her mother wiped spittle from her chin and waved at Dania as if to dismiss her. Dania was dumbfounded.

“You don’t think the truth matters?”

Calmer now, her mother nonetheless spat out the words. “Stupid girl. No, truth does not matter. What matters is that we are Copts. That is our identity, our culture, our history. Islam came to our country from outside and took over, will we now join them? Our Coptic language goes back two thousand years. Our ancestors resisted joining Islam for 1,400 years, should we betray them? We are the true Egyptians, we are more ancient. There is truth, and there is what matters. We are Copts, that is what matters!”

Her mother stood and stalked out of the lab, slamming the door behind her.

Dania’s heart beat like the sound of running feet, and sweat stood on her brow. She wiped her forehead with a sleeve, then fished the hair band out of her pocket and tied her hair back. Her mother’s words rang in her head. “There is the truth, and there is what matters!” Yet even as she pondered these words, they rearranged themselves in her head: “Truth is what matters.”

Rawan entered the lab. “Dania, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to -”

Dania held up a hand to silence her. “It’s okay,” she said. While her brain whispered:  “Do not be among the doubters. Truth is what matters.”



A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 1] Reflections On The Opening Chapter

A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 2] “I Am Near”

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What do the Tories consider extreme? – podcast

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 March, 2024 - 03:00

Michael Gove is rewriting the government’s definition of ‘extremism’ but his actions have drawn criticism from across the political spectrum. Columnist Rafael Behr reports

Why does the government need a new definition of extremism? There are two ways of answering that, the Guardian’s political columnist Rafael Behr tells Michael Safi. If you listen to the communities secretary, Michael Gove, you would hear a dark story of how certain organisations present themselves as moderate but beneath the surface are ideologically dangerous. These groups must be banned from interacting with the government at any level and blocked from receiving any funding. Another motivation, which the Conservatives would deny, is that it is an election year and they are fighting a campaign based on finding potential cultural dividing lines with Labour.

It’s been a bumpy week for the government to be highlighting its plan to deal with extremism. Rishi Sunak has spend much of it fending off demands to return a donation of £10m from a man who told a 2019 meeting that seeing Diane Abbott made you ‘want to hate all black women’ and that the MP ‘should be shot’. Downing Street eventually upgraded its criticism from ‘unacceptable’ to ‘racist and wrong’ but at the time of recording was refusing to return the donation.

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A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 2] “I Am Near”

Muslim Matters - 14 March, 2024 - 21:26

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


“I Am Near”

by Aliyah Umm Raiyaan


There is one verse in the Qur’an that pulls on my heart more than any other. It does not matter how many times I read it or hear its melodious recitation. Even when I hear a scholar delve deep into its meaning and linguistic beauty, I cannot but find my heart completely enthralled and attached to its Owner. I cannot but smile at how truly Caring and Loving my Rabb, Allah (azza wa jal) is.

I love this verse so much that as I planned the first draft of my first book, Ramadan Reflections, I knew it had to be included within its pages. For this verse, with its beautiful preserved words that belong to a most Merciful Creator, is a light for what can often feel like a dark world. They are the compass in which we can navigate this confusing experience called life.

Allow me to introduce you to the words of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) found in ayah 186 of Surah Baqarah. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.” [Surah Al-Baqarah: 2;186]

In my book, Ramadan Reflections, I wrote:

“When the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was asked by his people about all types of matters – from questions about the crescent moon in verse 189 in Surah Baqarah to a question about the sacred months in verse 217 – Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) would respond through revelation upon Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) with ‘Qul’, meaning ‘Tell them’, followed by the answer. However, the verse quoted above is different. In this verse, there is a linguistic beauty in how Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) responds. He (azza wa jal) says, ‘When My servants ask you about Me, I am near.’ ‘Qul’ meaning ‘Tell them’ is removed, linguistically removing Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) from the response just as he is removed from the direct intimate connection experienced between servant and Lord in du’a. There is no intermediary. We have a direct line to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).”

Not only is Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) in this verse, telling us that He is near. By making it stand out linguistically, He proves to all of us that we must hold this to be ever so true. He wants us to know this is an absolute fact. Linguistically it is so and in reality, Ar-Raheem –The Especially Merciful- wants us to know it is so. This makes my heart swell. The way I see it is that my Lord wants, yes wants, me to know He is near. In the midst of my trials and challenges, He does not want me to ever doubt. When Shaytaan whispers uncertainties in my ear, my Rabb does not want me to ever question. When tests leave me feeling unrooted, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) wants me to feel grounded. My Lord cares about me so much that He wants for me to feel safe and secure as I traverse this journey called life. He wants me, as an individual slave, to know He is near.

Through such simple words with a profound depth of linguistic beauty, preserved in the Qur’an from the moment it was revealed to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) through the Angel Jibreel 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) until the end of time – we learn that we have a Creator who is so Attentively Merciful towards us that He wants our souls to be in a state of complete wellbeing – emotionally, mentally and spiritually. And what greater way for us to be truly well than to know with surety that we are not alone and will never be alone? For He is Near.

With this knowledge, I am able to stand that little bit taller, knowing He is with me; close. With this knowledge, I need not anxiously wonder how I’ll get through the difficulties of my future because I know He is with me; ever so close. With this knowledge, I continue my striving as an imperfect soul upon an imperfect journey, knowing despite my imperfections and flaws, He is with me in ways that I will never truly be able to comprehend.

My Lord who created me knew before I was in the womb of my mother that I needed to know “I am Near.” This applies to all of us. Rabbul ‘Alameen has left no room for us to ever doubt His Closeness. He wants us to feel aided and protected during our brief encounter in this world. He is Ar-Rahmaan, Al Wadood. If this is a glimpse of His Care for us in this dunya, then I can only ponder on His Mercy that awaits us in the akhirah.



A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 1] Reflections On The Opening Chapter

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

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The Guardian view on Gove and extremism: this definition is a problem, not a solution | Editorial

The Guardian World news: Islam - 14 March, 2024 - 19:03

The government’s new approach is not a serious effort to tackle rising hatred and division

It is never a good sign when a minister needs to spend as long talking about what a new policy doesn’t do as what it does. Much of Michael Gove’s Thursday was occupied with stressing the limits of the new extremism definition. It will not be statutory, the communities secretary pointed out. It will “in no way threaten” free speech. It will not be used against environmental groups. It would not be used in response to an individual comment, he added, responding to the inevitable questions that arose because the crackdown coincided with the Guardian’s revelation that one of the Conservatives’ top donors, Frank Hester, said in 2019 that Diane Abbott “should be shot”.

What the new measure will do, said Mr Gove, is help the fight against extremism. It won’t. Had community cohesion and tackling hatred truly been a priority, a full public consultation and proper engagement with faith groups would have been the right way forward. Instead came what the Conservative peer Sayeeda Warsi described as a “divide and rule approach”.

Do you have an opinion on the issues raised in this article? If you would like to submit a response of up to 300 words by email to be considered for publication in our letters section, please click here.

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London mayor says new extremism policy likely to drive groups underground – UK politics live

The Guardian World news: Islam - 14 March, 2024 - 16:07

Sadiq Khan says new extremism policy announced by Michael Gove risks increasing division

In his speech Keir Starmer has just confirmed that Labour would stop ticket touts buying up tickets for events and re-selling them at rip-off prices.

This is what Labour said about the plan in a news release this morning.

Reselling tickets for profit has already been banned in many countries, but under the Tories, fans have been let down.

Too often, genuine fans are missing out on getting tickets only to see those same tickets on secondary ticketing websites at far higher prices, making them unaffordable and putting them out of reach.

My first ever trip abroad was to Malta with the Croydon youth Philharmonic Orchestra. You will know that excitement you feel when you have an encounter with the arts that changes your life. Everyone in the room will know that the sense, I suppose, of being drawn into something that seems bigger than ourselves, of being truly moved by a piece of music, or painting, or a play …

Even now even now, listening to Beethoven or Brahms as I read the Sunday papers, takes the edge off some of the more uncomfortable stories.

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Understanding Boycotts And Buying Within Our Communities

Muslim Matters - 14 March, 2024 - 14:10

Someone inquired of Imam Ahmad, “Can a man buy from the enemy?” 

Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) answered, “Nothing should be bought from those who gain power over the Muslims.” (Masāil Ibn Hani)

Boycotting—along with protests and donations to charitable organizations—is just one way to express solidarity with the Palestinian cause. And like all methods of solidarity, it comes under scrutiny.

On the flip side, in our earnestness, we may seek to boycott anything and everything we think is part of a boycott list. Some have coined the term “boycott fatigue” to express the dismay of being unable to buy certain products from certain businesses. There is a grain of truth in the sentiment; we may overwhelm ourselves with a pressure to participate in every boycott that we hear of and restrict our purchasing decisions to a point where we cannot work effectively.

This piece will emphasize the importance of boycotts, reiterate the specific outcomes of a boycott, and suggest alternatives.

Internalize That Boycotts Are Permissible—And That They Work

We remember a foundational principle in our faith: “الأصل في الأشياء إباحة.” All things are permissible, unless there’s something that makes it reprehensible or rewardable. So when it comes to transactions with non-Muslims, the default is that they are permissible. However, there are concerns when those transactions directly contribute to the harm of our people. [Ikmāl al-Muʿlim bi-Fawāʾid Muslim of al-Qadi ‘Iyad]

We often hear of one boycott from the seerah, termed as “The Boycott.” Muslims were confined to one valley for merely practicing their faith. 

After the hijrah, a man named Thumamah was in charge of the wheat in Yamamah. He came to accept Islam after being captured in Madinah. With the permission of the Prophet ﷺ, he left to perform Umrah. While in the holy city, he proclaimed to the Makkans that he wouldn’t give them a single grain of wheat unless the Prophet ﷺ, again, gave him permission. The Prophet ﷺ didn’t rebuke him for this action. In fiqh, we learn that this is a tacit approval of boycotts. So we’ve learned that boycotts are not only permissible; they can be encouraged.

The similarities between the seerah and the ongoing crisis are many. Where the early Muslims in the past had to eat leaves in order to survive their boycott, Palestinians have been forced to move from tent to tent, “safe” zone to “safe” zone, exiles in their own land. The situation is so severe that Palestinians made “bread” out of animal feed. This stark reality gives us reason for pause. We must examine our own food critically and see if it contributes to this genocide. McDonald’s and Starbucks are two examples of food companies complicit in apartheid.

In just the past quarter alone, McDonald’s and Starbucks suffered huge losses not only in profits, but in worker strikes. Those losses stemmed from each individual’s decision not to purchase their products. It’s a beautiful reminder of the hadith, “Even if the Resurrection were established upon one of you while he has in his hand a sapling, let him plant it.” [Musnad Aḥmad 12902] Deeds like these are small, but they have a large impact.

Scholars like Hatem al-Haj have offered another framework for participating in boycotts besides their economic effectiveness:

“The effectiveness of boycotts can be variable, and my personal contribution may seem minuscule. However, my commitment to them is not dependent on their practical outcomes. It is a spiritual and moral choice, a means to consciously disassociate from the oppression and those who inflict it upon my brothers and sisters and those who support them. It is a practice I undertake to uphold the integrity of my character, preserve the tranquility of my soul, and safeguard my standing in the hereafter.”

Not only does this build qualities of restraint (إمساك), but also consciousness (تقوة). If we’re able to restrain ourselves from a subscription service like Disney+ or another purchase from Amazon, it allows us to refine ourselves into more conscious consumers, and ultimately, more practicing Muslims. Just because something is halal (permissible) doesn’t mean that it is tayyib (good).

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Allah the Almighty is Good, and accepts only that which is good. And verily Allah has commanded the believers to do that which He has commanded the Messengers. So the Almighty has said:

O messengers, eat from the good foods ( tayyibat) and work righteousness. Indeed, I, of what you do, am Knowing.” [Surah Al-Muminoon: 23;51]

And the Almighty has said:

“O you who believe! Eat of the lawful things that We have provided you, and be grateful to Allah if it is [indeed] Him that you worship.” [Surah Al-Baqarah: 2;172]

Then he ﷺ mentioned a man who, having journeyed far, is disheveled and dusty, and who spreads out his hands to the sky saying ‘O Lord! O Lord!,’ while his food is haram, his drink is haram, his clothing is haram, and he has been nourished with haram, so how can he be answered?” [Hadith 10, 40 Hadith al-Nawawi]

Understanding Boycotting

There are a few categories from movements like the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. The first are targeted boycotts versus non-targeted boycotts.

Targeted boycotts

Targeted boycott (PC: BDS website)

The method of targeted boycotts was inspired by other movements that focussed on a few companies and products. A company or product on a targeted boycott list has a proven link to Israel and a desired outcome. The BDS movement has eight main targets: Hewlett Packard, Siemens, AXA, Puma, Israeli Produce, SodaStream, Ahava, and Sabra.

Non-targeted boycotts

Non-targeted boycotts (PC: BDS website)

A non-targeted boycott is Pepsi-Co, one of the parent companies of Sabra. While Pepsi-Co does operate factories in Atarot, an illegal Israeli settlement, BDS specifically targets Sabra because of its support towards the Israeli Occupation Forces.

Returning to the idea of targeted boycotts, there are four sections that the BDS movement illustrates.

  • Consumer boycott: Complete boycott; company has dedicated proof of support for Israel. Examples include the main targets above, as well as Carrefour, Chevron, Caltex, Re/max, and Texaco.
  • Divestment and exclusion: Avoid purchasing and investing; company profits from Israeli apartheid. Examples include HikVision, Barclays, Cat, Volvo, and Intel.
  • Pressure target: Find alternatives as much as possible; these companies continue to market themselves, promote, and operate in illegal Israel. Examples include Google, Amazon, Airbnb, Expedia,, Teva, and Disney.
  • Organic boycott: Grassroots boycott; supported by larger BDS movement. Examples include McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Wix, Domino’s and Papa John’s. 

It’s also important to note that many of these companies show up on multiple boycott lists. Many Palestinian activists promote boycotting Nestle due to their stake in Osem. They also emerged on the Lakota People’s Law Project for their deforestation as well as harmful water pumping practices.

Where To Buy From Instead

Consider supporting Muslim-owned businesses, even if you find that a non-Muslim company is considered “safe” from boycotts. Malcolm X (may Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) have mercy on him), had a brilliant idea within his biography: that black men and women should exclusively support black-owned businesses. The same can be said for Muslims. Imagine what our community could do if the daughters and sons of grocery store owners had parents who could further fund their futures. All it takes is for us to support the businesses of our brothers and sisters.

If you are unable to avoid a certain product or company, consider making a minimal donation to a charitable organization every time you make that purchase.

Ultimately, remember that it comes down to intention. We all do our best, but many factors are at play—like medical conditions, environment, and income. Do not forget the comforting words of the Prophet ﷺ that remind us that we can do whatever is within our capacity:

“Whoever among you sees evil, let him change it with his hand. If he cannot do so, then with his tongue. If he cannot do so, then with his heart, which is the weakest level of faith.” [Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 49]

Boycotting is an effective method of resistance, not just economically, but spiritually. 

May Allah ﷺ allow us to have halal wealth, and to be upright with how we spend that wealth.



This Eid And Beyond Boycott Goods Made With Enslaved Labor Of Uyghurs Even If It Is Your Favorite Brand

Israel and Apartheid | Taking Action with BDS

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Gove says three Muslim-led groups and two far-right to be assessed for extremism

The Guardian World news: Islam - 14 March, 2024 - 13:22

Community secretary’s new definition of extremism attracts criticism in parliament, including from former Tory minister

Three Muslim-led organisations and two far-right groups will be assessed under the government’s controversial new extremism definition, Michael Gove has told MPs.

The communities secretary named the Muslim Association of Britain, Mend and Cage as groups with “Islamist orientation and beliefs” that would be held to account following the launch of a new definition of extremism.

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