Ashura: The Victory of Musa And Victory of Husain

Muslim Matters - 18 August, 2021 - 17:16

The month of Muharram has already begun, and ‘Ashura is upon us. Unfortunately, it feels as though each year, we grow more and more distant from the true importance of the month of Muharram and of its tenth day. With each passing year, we see more “Happy Islamic New Year!” announcements and “Every day is ‘Ashura, every day is Karbala!” slogans – pointing to a deeply problematic understanding of what exactly Muharram and ‘Ashura signify. 

It is Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Who created the months of the year, and it is He alone Who chooses which of those months are sacred and which of those days are meant to be days of celebration and commemoration. In the Sunnah of RasulAllah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), we have ample evidence of specific examples: the month of Ramadan, the last ten nights of Ramadan, the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah (including the day of ‘Arafah and the day of Nahr), and so on.

Muharram is one of those months, and is indeed the first of the Sacred Months of the Islamic calendar. Yet never did RasulAllah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) or his Companions take the first day of the ‘Islamic new year’ as something to commemorate or make special note of. Rather, it is the day of ‘Ashura – the 10th of Muharram – that is marked as being of significant importance in Islam. (In short: “Happy Islamic New Year” is not a Sunnah. Everyone needs to chill with inventing new bid’ah every year.)

As for ‘Ashura, the 10th day of Muharram, it is a day that was specifically mentioned by RasulAllah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) as being a day to be remembered.

When the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) arrived in Medina, the Jews were observing the fast on ‘Ashura (10th of Muharram) and they said,

“This is the day when Musa became victorious over Pharaoh,” On that, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said to his Companions, “You (Muslims) have more right to celebrate Moses’ victory than they have, so observe the fast on this day.” [Bukhari]

He also informed the Sahabah: “Fast the Day of ‘Ashura, for indeed I anticipate that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will forgive (the sins of) the year before it.” [Tirmidhi]

Umm al-Mu’mineen Hafsah bint ‘Umar raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) said: “There are four things which the Prophet never gave up: Fasting ‘Ashura’, (fasting during) the ten days, (fasting) three days of each month, and praying two Rak’ahs before Al-Ghadah (Fajr).” [Nasa’i]

For this day to be singled out by the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) shows that there was something truly unique about it. At the time of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), Bani Isra’eel – the believers of that time – had suffered generations of oppression and injustice at the hands of one of the most genocidal tyrants of all time, the Pharaoh of Egypt. Bani Isra’eel had been enslaved and used for the most painful and backbreaking of labour; Fir’awn had their menfolk killed, leaving the women alive to be raped and tormented. Worse still, while Bani Isra’eel struggled in the depths of their torturous enslavement to worship Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) alone, Fir’awn declared himself to be God, commanding all those around him to worship him. It was a devastating time of darkness, of oppression that had perhaps never been matched at such a scale before. The coming of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) as a Prophet to Bani Isra’eel heralded a new era: an era where tawheed would once again fill the hearts of people, an era where the vicious regime of Fir’awn would be eradicated, an era where the believers would be powerful once again. The day of Fir’awn’s destruction, as the Red Sea split for Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and Bani Israel and opened their way to freedom, was a day where Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Promise was most visibly evident: 

{…Truth has come, and falsehood has been extinguished. Indeed, falsehood is ever bound to vanish!} [Qur’an 17:81]

It is for this reason alone that the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) commanded us to fast the day of ‘Ashura: as a celebration of the believers’ victory over Fir’awn, and as an opportunity for the expiation of sins. It is not, and never was, commemorated as a day of mourning for the martyrdom of Husain ibn ‘Ali raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him). Indeed, to claim ‘Ashurah, or the month of Muharram, as a time of grief and of performing rituals to commemorate that undoubtedly tragic event, is a blatant rejection of the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). ‘Ashura remains for us a powerful day of reminder: that victory will only come to those who believe in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), to those who struggle for His Cause, to those who obey Him fully, and to those who seek repentance for their own shortcomings. Then, and only then, will we experience the blessings of a victory like that of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) against Fir’awn. 

Even as it is absolutely necessary for us to understand that the act of ‘ibadah specified for ‘Ashura was with regards to Musa’s triumph over Fir’awn, it is also important for us to be aware of the later events of our Islamic history that took place on this day. 

 The story of Hussain ibn Ali raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) is not one that belongs to only a certain group of people; it belongs to the Ummah as a whole, and in particular, those who profess to be of Ahlus Sunnah wa’l Jamaa’ah – those who must, by necessity, love RasulAllah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and his Ahlul Bayt. It is extremely unfortunate that many of us have not been taught to understand the story of Husain raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) and his death in a contextualized manner; for either there is a tendency to shy away from speaking about the story of Hussain raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) out of fear of being associated with the Shi’a and the many bid’ah that have arisen related to the incident, or there is an exaggeration over what happened, those involved, and how we as Muslims speak of the tragic story. 

As Muslims, we have an obligation to be honest to our history, to be true to it, and to learn from it – for verily, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is al-Qaadir, the One Who decrees events to take place, and it is we who must understand the ayaat (signs) that He has placed in those moments.

The story of Hussain is not one that is in opposition to the story of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), but in fact confirms it, and confirms the spirit of ‘Ashura. That spirit is one of struggle against falsehood, oppression, and injustice; and of victory.

Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) stood against Fir’awn; as a humble Prophet with a community of former slaves facing the most powerful ruler of the time and his vast army of brutal soldiers.

Husain ibn Ali raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) stood against Yazeed ibn Mu’awiyah; the grandson of the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and his family members, facing the ruler of the Islamic empire at the time, and his vast army of soldiers loyal to his cause.

Neither Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) nor Husain raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) were military leaders, nor did they set out with military intentions. Their only intention was to speak truth to power; to stand against the oppression of the innocent, and to remind those in authority of the One with true power overall.

Whereas Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was given a clear victory against his enemy, little do we realize that Husain raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) was also given a victory of his own. Though he may have perished, though his family was captured, and though it was perceived that the political influence of Ahlul Bayt was destroyed, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) brought about an even greater victory through all of that: recognition for the rest of the Ummah, and for hundreds of years to come, that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) returns to Himself those whom He loves. Husain raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) died as a shaheed for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), and he remains a symbol of courage, determination, and justice to us all.

In a time when we are seeing Muslims across the world being destroyed almost effortlessly, the tragedy of Hussain ibn ‘Ali raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) and his family members being massacred and captured is a story which we must remind ourselves of… not that we lose hope, but that we hold strong to it.

{And do not say about those who are killed in the way of Allah, “They are dead.” Rather, they are alive, but you perceive [it] not.} [Qur’an 2:154]

Injustice and oppression may seem to be powerful today, just as they seemed to be powerful when Husain raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) was killed, but Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) alone is the Most Powerful. Victory in the sight of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) does not always mean that the enemies of Islam are immediately destroyed with a miracle, but that their destruction in the Hereafter will be eternal and all the more painful.

Ultimately, the day of ‘Ashura is a lesson to us all – not to mourn, but to rejoice over the ultimate victory of truth over falsehood, just as Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was given victory over the tyranny and falsehood of Fir’awn.

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Afghanistan: Discussing the Crisis And Solutions

Muslim Matters - 16 August, 2021 - 16:53

Centering Afghan Voices

What has happened in Afghanistan? Who are the role players in the development of the current situation and what is happening now.

On the ground realities, and prospects for the future in terms of solutions.

Panelists: Shaykh Hasib Noor, Prof Haroun Rahimi, Spozhmai S. Stanakzai, and Muslimmatters EIC Hena Zuberi

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Plymouth murders, armed losers and terrorism

Indigo Jo Blogs - 15 August, 2021 - 21:47
Picture of a densely-populated residential area with very few trees dominated by the rooftops of lots of small houses. A small park is visible on the left and the sea is visible at the very back.Keyham, Plymouth, where the killing spree took place

Last Thursday a man named Jake Davison murdered his mother and then four others in Plymouth before turning the gun on himself. It has been revealed that Davison had made YouTube videos in which he used similar rhetoric to other recent spree killers in the US and Canada: misogynists known as ‘incels’ who blame everyone but themselves for their failure to get on in life and get the sex they believe everyone else is having. Davison in particular expressed hatred for his mother who had raised him on her own; he accused her of pocketing the benefit money he received because of his autism, though he said he had recently regained control over it. It has also been revealed that he was a licensed firearms holder, though his licence had been withdrawn last year after he was accused of an assault but returned to him after he voluntarily attended an anger management course. As is usual with such cases in the UK, questions are now being asked as to how someone like this could have obtained a firearms licence at all.

As for how he could have got a licence, the simple answer is that background checks for people seeking such licences involve checks on their criminal record, which Davison did not have (although it was revealed in some of the papers today that he had committed assaults on people in his neighbourhood but not been charged), as well as diagnosed mental illness. It does not check on someone’s opinions or other aspects of real or perceived ill character. People are allowed to own shotguns for sport and other kinds of firearms for such activities as shooting wildlife, subject to approval from the local chief of police following a background check. Perhaps requests for licences should be subject to publicity, as is the case with applications for an HGV operator’s licence (this is for companies seeking to use trucks, not truck drivers) so that the public can object and people with obvious axes to grind can be screened out. As for whether guns should be kept at home or not, some types of firearms used for sport have to be kept at shooting clubs, but whether all guns should have to be kept on club or company premises is debatable as they would become attractive to robbers intending to use them for criminal purposes.

As with any incident of this kind, it was initially announced that the attack was “not terror related” and this provoked howls of indignation, especially when his attachment to the “incel ideology” became apparent; to some, the fact that the perpetrator was white was what disqualified it from being classed as terrorism. Terrorism used to refer to campaigns of violence that targeted civilians where there was a declared cause such as regime change or the liberation of a country, and the violence was intended to intimidate a democratic country into changing its policies; these days it increasingly means any politically motivated violence. While there have been others like Davison and may well be more, this does not make them part of a campaign; typically, incel spree killers are resentful losers with lonely lives and a lot of personal problems seeking to go out in a blaze of glory and take a few others with them. I’m against expanding the definition of terrorism beyond what it is understood to mean; there is a danger that it could end up encompassing things which do not even target civilians, such as sabotage of military hardware intended for the targeting of civilians by the state, or which cause disruption rather than destruction, let alone death.

The “Secret Barrister” claimed in a tweet that attacks like Davison’s are “designed to intimidate a section of the public (women) and for the purpose of advancing an ideological cause (incelism) - that’s terrorism”. However, all the major incel attacks have been targeted at men as well as women, killing in almost equal numbers (while the 1986 Montreal Polytechnic massacre, which claimed the lives of 19 women and no men, has much in common, it predates the existence of this particular community). Their online rants and manifestos have expressed hatred towards not only women but anyone they see as depriving them of the sexual satisfaction and companionship that they lack. While they do talk of women in very demeaning and derogatory ways, their resentment is directed at everyone and everyone is at some risk. I would dispute whether it seems intended to intimidate women or indeed anyone; intimidation requires that the perpetrators, or people closely connected with them, are still out there and have the capacity to attack. That isn’t the case here; the next attack could be in any country and will take place whenever the perpetrator feels like it, not when his superiors order it.

Finally, I hear people blaming Davison’s background for the killing spree, including the fact that he was raised by a single mother. We really don’t know why Davison’s father was not around; perhaps he had died, or perhaps his mother had left him because he was abusive. Let’s be clear that it’s Davison’s choice to get involved in the online misogynist community that led to this, as well as their encouragement to him to wallow in self-pity and resentment rather than to sort his life out. He was 22 years old, much too young for anyone to think that they are beyond ever getting a partner or a meaningful job. He would have had his whole life ahead of him and so would his victims if he had found supportive friends instead of a community of resentful and bitter people who turned him against his mother (as it was reported that he had previously been devoted to her) and, I strongly suspect, trolls who would egg them on. Single parenthood is a fact of life and always has been, and most people raised by one parent for lack of the other grow up to be rounded adults, especially if they have wider family and community support, the proverbial ‘village’. Neither this nor autism, nor the women of Plymouth as one quack widely quoted on Twitter suggested, are to blame; Davison and the sewer of misogynists and trolls he existed in are.

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My Photo Was On Sulli Deals: Anti Muslim Bigotry and Misogyny in BJP’s India

Muslim Matters - 6 August, 2021 - 18:01

I am a Kashmiri Muslim woman and I am not sharing my name or photo as they have been shared thousands of times along with photos of a hundred other Muslim women on an app using GitHub – by the name of ‘Sulli Deals’. By stealing my information and posting about me as a deal of the day, sending rape threats to victims, they thought they could silence me. 

According to 2018 UN reports “Violence against women is used as a strategy of Conflict”. Women trapped in conflict often become the soft targets for the domineering class. The attribute and the battleground of war have altered. During the First World War, 80-90 percent of the victims were from the military, whereas according to the common statistics, 90 percent of the victims of today’s conflict are civilians. Most of the time, women usually don’t initiate the wars, however, they do endure heavily from the ramifications that follow the war. Conflict catalysts much higher rates of sexual violence.

The repercussions of the war result in the extreme vulnerability of women to poverty, the loss of jobs, and the destruction of any kind of aid or help, which are quite evident in Dalit women and women in Kashmir and now in Indian Muslim women.

Physical, sexual, and psychological violence that is being inflicted on women in the conflicted zones is often overlooked by the state. The generic surge in violence and the debacle of law and order intensifies the brutality against women. In addition, during the conflict, the perception of masculinity repeatedly engages with contentious and misogynist attitudes, through which women and their bodies are seen as territory to be conquered and possessed to escalate the oppressed men’s humiliation or to reward the men in power. The bestiality against women that takes place in the time of the conflict has horrific characteristics that demarcate it from violence in unhostile population in peacetime.

From the side-effect of war to be the most lethal and common weapon, rape is being used as one of the most essential instruments in the conflicted regions. It’s used as a blueprint to break down the whole population of the subjugated. Rape is operated as a gambit to force people to flee their homes and lands; to cripple resistance to aggression by building an atmosphere of fear, dismantling the morality and honour of the subjugated population. Rape as a weapon of war has been globally condemned, and UN Commission on Human Rights passed a resolution placing rape, for the first time, distinctly within the structure of war crimes trauma of wartime rape, both physical and psychological, does not stop with the termination of the conflict. Since past decades till date, sexual violence continues to be employed as a tactic of war, with widespread and strategic rapes, including mass rapes, mostly in association with other crimes such as assassination, burglarize, forced displacement, pillage, and arbitrary detention. Often the fault lines resulting in the conflict are blurred out due to the strategic nature of violence. Patterns of sexual violence have also been seen in the context of both rural and urban warfare, during house searches, operations in residential areas, and at checkpoints.

Since the idea of democratic India has been throttled by the current authoritarian regime, the government and its system have waged a war against its minorities and the violence against them has escalated in its severity. And Muslims, the largest minority in India, is the first line victims of the authoritarian regime, where Muslims are both dispossessed and disempowered. From daily harassment of Muslims to lynching to demolishing of mosques, Muslims in India are being inflicted with severe trauma, for living in this country and are on the verge of being rendered as second-class citizens. However, in the larger context, keeping in mind the misogynistic environment of the country, Muslim women are most vulnerable to the repercussions of this power.

Watch: What Inspired The Sulli Deal App for Muslim Women Auction

From facing threats to abuses by the men in power on the ground to now being auctioned off online by the Right Wing Hindu men on GitHub, with a site named “Sulli deals” (Sulli is a slang word used for Muslims), Muslim women are facing the most heinous form of persecution, with little or almost no justice from the system that in turn bestows impunity to the culprits under the garb of religion.

From the women victims in the Gujrat program in 2002 to the victims of the Delhi riots in 2020, the violence against women was identity-based. Their identity of being Muslims is what led the culprits to perpetrate the crimes against them, i.e, from rapes to physical torture.

Islamophobia mixed with misogyny is a lethal weapon that has almost been certified in India, which is used to violate the sanctity and dignity of Muslim women of this country.

Islamophobia mixed with misogyny is a lethal weapon that has almost been certified in this country, which is used to violate the sanctity and dignity of Muslim women of this country.Click To Tweet

And if you are a vocal Muslim woman, your existence itself is seen as a threat to the power structure of the government.

Being a Kashmir Muslim Woman, an active social media user, I propagate and speak against the violence of the Indian government in Kashmir, it becomes inevitable to escape the daily trolls on Twitter. However, finding my picture on the app created specifically to auction Muslim women is both dehumanising and frightful. The thought of my pictures being circulated among various Right-Wing Hindu groups sends shivers down my spine. As mentioned before, it’s not an isolated incident of misogyny but a very explicit case of Islamophobia, and this act was drafted to humiliate both Muslim women and men. More than 100 women, who are vocal and expose the oppression of the current regime on Muslims in this country and who also further question the systematic corruption of the government towards the minorities were the prime targets.

However, despite filling various FIR’s, and opposition leaders vehemently expressing their condemnation and demanding the arrest of the culprits, no action has been taken by the government, which further makes it clear, that any culprit or any violence committed against Muslims (both men and women) by the majority of this country calls for no action, rather each incident is white-washed and forgotten.

A month before this incident, a Youtube channel by the name “Liberal Doge” ran a live stream on the evening of Eid-ul-Fitr, where it screened the pictures of Pakistani and Indian women (that were updated on Twitter on the occasion of Eid) and passed profane comments which were further joined by over more than a thousand Hindu men participating in passing vile and obnoxious comments on Pakistani women. However, the channel was widely reported but no legal action was taken against it. Emboldened, the perpetrator boasted with audacity about his actions and how victims failed to seek any punishment.

These incidents cannot be viewed in isolation or dispossessed off as “minor” incidents. Such incidents are well-drafted to attack and vilify Muslims in India backed by the system and the lack of punishment from the emboldens it further.

If it continues the same way, the day is not far when a Muslim woman will be violated openly on the roads of India by such men with most of the majority community watching it in silence.

[Ed. Note] I urge Muslims to share her story, to amplify her voice. Some segments of our community want their sisters to stop speaking, but isn’t that exactly want they want.

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