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The Pain Of Loss: A Story Of Hope

Muslim Matters - 30 October, 2017 - 17:55

He was happily married for only three years when he received news that his wife had passed away in a car accident. His 14-month old daughter, Aayah, would grow up not having known her mother. He had no family who could help raise her except for a distant sibling, who already had children of her own.

Eventually, he began to question his faith. He wondered why his wife had to be taken away. He wondered why hardship and suffering existed in this world. He wondered why God would allow him to feel pain, since God was the Ever-Merciful, and why his daughter had to be raised without her mother.

Eventually, severe depression kicked in like a heavy weight on his shoulders. It was with him day and night. His world became engulfed in darkness and despair. His thoughts about pain and suffering, coupled with the demands of his work and circumstances, led him to complete isolation from his friends and the community.

He eventually stopped praying. He thought his depression would ease over time, but he would shed tears every time he looked at his daughter. His severe grief led him to decide to find someone else, anyone else in his family, to raise Aayah. His sister agreed to take care of her for as long as necessary. And eventually, just as his wife left his world abruptly, so too did Aayah.

Before we continue with the brother’s intense experiences, let us reflect on several important points.

 

This brother, once a signpost of light and activism in the community, fell quickly into a series of life-changing problems. His problems, as he later elucidated, were due to his high expectations of this worldly life and his confusion about the actuality of pain, suffering, and attachment.

However, the brother isn’t alone. There isn’t a human being upon this earth who lives a life without any discomfort, pain, hardship, or suffering. When you expect this life to be a paradise, it’s going to be difficult to cope with pain. When you perceive this world to be the be-all and end-all of existence, it’s going to not just magnify one’s pain, but present it with no purpose.

Mankind has always asked about the purpose of existence, the purpose of suffering, and the purpose of life as we know it. The responses, however, are elusive to many – and with their elusiveness comes a darkness without light, a sharp pain without purpose.

The problem of suffering, in the Islamic perspective, is not a “problem” at all, in its proper context. The objective of this article isn’t to expound on every response to the concept of suffering in detail, but to serve as a reminder that there is always light, hope, and purpose.

Suffering, in many cases, is relative and subjective. In other cases, suffering is a means of increased mental and spiritual strength – “no pain, no gain”. Suffering can exist as a reminder to return back to one’s true purpose in connecting with, and knowing, one’s Creator. Suffering in other scenarios is a byproduct of one’s own shortcomings or due to an over-attachment to a human being more than one’s attachment to Allah.

Oftentimes, suffering is a reminder that this life is not paradise and that it serves a different purpose. In other contexts, it’s a powerful reminder that the true source of might, and control, is in the hands of the Creator. In yet other contexts, suffering is a massive and humbling blessing in disguise. Suffering may also serve as a path to increase one’s ranks in the sight of Allah via true patience.

Ultimately, however, suffering is limited – for the righteous. Allah states:

جَنَّاتُ عَدْنٍ يَدْخُلُونَهَا وَمَن صَلَحَ مِنْ آبَائِهِمْ وَأَزْوَاجِهِمْ وَذُرِّيَّاتِهِمْ ۖ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ يَدْخُلُونَ عَلَيْهِم مِّن كُلِّ بَابٍ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُم بِمَا صَبَرْتُمْ ۚ فَنِعْمَ عُقْبَى الدَّارِ

“Gardens of perpetual residence; they will enter them with whoever were righteous among their ancestors, their spouses and their descendants. And the angels will enter upon them from every gate, [saying], “Peace be upon you for what you patiently endured. And excellent is the final home.”[1]

One step into Paradise, regardless of all the misery and hardship experienced in this world, erases and wipes out all memories of pain and hardship. It was reported that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:

“…and then the most miserable people in the world from the people of Paradise will come on the Day of Resurrection to be dipped [once] into Paradise, then it will be said: O son of Adam, did you ever experience any hardship? Did you ever have any distress? He will say: No, by Allah, my Lord! I never experienced any hardship. I never experienced any distress.”[2]

If one dip in Paradise can erase all the pain of the one who experiences more misery and hardship in this world than anyone else, then how would one step into Paradise feel for everyone else? How would one minute feel in Paradise? One hour? How about an eternity?

The “Problem of Suffering”

The “problem of suffering” oftentimes ignores the Divine wisdom of Allah (swt) who places everything in its proper place, who Sees what we do not, who cares more for our success and happiness than we do for ourselves. Allah is Al-Hakeem, the Most Wise, and Allah is also Al-Wadood, the Most Loving, and Ar-Raheem, the Unimaginably and Ever-Merciful.

Not understanding the purpose of pain would magnify one’s hardship. Knowing, thus, that Allah the Exalted is Wise, Merciful, and Loving, should remind us to put our full trust in Him. Furthermore, Allah didn’t allow us to experience this world with its many darknesses and hardships without also sending us a source of Light, Knowledge, and Guidance, a means of solace and optimism so that we may move forward in life regardless of what we encounter.

Our lives would change significantly if we studied what He revealed, contemplated the teachings of His Message and messenger, and reminded ourselves of that Light every time we experienced darkness.

Returning back to the story of Abu Aayah, the brother assumed that his happiness would slowly trickle back into his life now that he didn’t have Aayah to remind him of the pain of loss. In hindsight, it would have seemed obvious that his daughter would eventually serve as a source of abundant happiness for him, but the power of emotions can blind one from rational thinking.

His depression became so severe that he soon began to contemplate suicide. He began to drink to numb the pain, but the drinking magnified his problems manifold. Eventually, he contemplated suicide almost continuously when he was alone.

Sitting in his dark living room one night, considering the matter of suicide seriously, he began reading the final text messages his wife had sent him a few hours before she died, wallowing in despair. As he scrolled back through the older messages from his wife, Sarah, he stopped at an exchange of messages between them that read (with slight omissions at the request of the brother):

Sarah: “I don’t know what I’d do without you, I think I’d die of depression! <3”

Sarah: “lol jk, I’d be more depressed thinking that we wouldn’t end up in jannah together”

Abu Aayah: “wow, what a dark thought. Lol. may allah unite us in jannah with all of our kids and offspring”

Sarah: “aaameeen! <3”

Abu Aayah cried uncontrollably. He found himself falling into prostration, crying and asking Allah for help. As he allowed his tears to flow, his prayers and supplications became more concrete. He begged for happiness, for relief, for forgiveness, for direction, and for a means of making it to paradise to be with his wife and daughter.

He purified himself and prayed. And prayed. And prayed. He hadn’t felt such tranquility, such focus, such meaning, ever since his wife left this world. He knew what he wanted, and what needed to be done. He finished his prayer and sent a message to his sister. He informed her that he would pick up Aayah that same day. And he did.

Abu Aayah now strives to remind others in his community about the importance of spiritual and mental well-being, and he shares his experiences in order to help others cope with hardships and pain so that they might find hope and light once again.

May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) grant us enduring patience, beneficial wisdom, a strong connection to the Qur’an, continuous trust and reliance upon Him, and the highest levels of Paradise with our loved ones.

 

 The original names have been modified in this story at the request of the brother and his family.

 

References:

[1] Qur’an 13:23-24.

[2] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2807.

It isn’t just halal slaughter that Britain needs to make more humane | Masuma Rahim

The Guardian World news: Islam - 30 October, 2017 - 13:32
As a Muslim I support Lancashire’s ban on non-stunned halal meat in schools. But how we treat the animals we eat is the issue here – not religious compliance

After a long – and heated – debate, councillors in Lancashire voted on Thursday to ban the supply of non-stunned meat in state schools. The decision has resulted in some controversy over the status of kosher and halal meat, which has legal exemption from being pre-stunned, with one Labour councillor describing the ban as sending a disrespectful message to the children of Muslim families.

Related: Lancashire council votes to ban schools from serving non-stunned halal meat

Our continually increasing demand for cheap meat has resulted in ever-decreasing conditions for animals

Related: Rise of mega farms: how the US model of intensive farming is invading the world

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Review: The Voyage of Charles Darwin

Inayat's Corner - 29 October, 2017 - 21:27

When it comes to furthering our understanding of the world around us, the scientific revolution has given us a stellar list of heroes: Galileo, Newton, Einstein amongst many, many others. The subject of the BBC’s 1978 seven-part drama was another great hero of science: Charles Darwin, and specifically, his five-year voyage around South America on board the HMS Beagle from 1831 – 1836.

Darwin was an amateur naturalist with a keenly inquiring mind. During his voyage around South America he noticed how the fauna on islands off the coast of South America would often resemble but not be exactly the same as the fauna on the mainland. Why would this be and what could account for the differences? The Captain of the Beagle was Robert Fitzroy – a devout Christian – and he was sure of the answer: it was because God had willed it that way. This, unsurprisingly, did not satisfy Darwin who looked for more specific reasons.

Darwin gathered specimens from South America and sent them back to England for more detailed examination. He gathered data from his own observations and that from his correspondents all over the world: Darwin was a prodigious letter-writer and eagerly kept abreast of the latest findings. By 1844, Darwin had enough data to compile an initial draft of his theory of evolution by natural selection. He instructed his wife, Emma, that if anything were to happen to him that she was to use £400 of his money to publish this work.

Still, Darwin did not publish his work for another fifteen years in 1859. Why was this so? Historians say it is because Darwin was well aware of the great unease his theory would cause amongst religious believers. Anyway, Darwin’s hand was forced when, in 1858, another amateur naturalist and a correspondent of Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace, sent to Darwin his own theory of how species had come into being – a theory that was identical to that of Darwin’s own.

In the years since 1859, despite the abuse and misinformation directed towards him and his theory, Darwin has been thoroughly vindicated by science. And religious scholars (well, all except the most blinkered) have had to adapt their worldview to incorporate Darwin’s theory.

To this day, however, there is a great deal of confusion about evolution and its status. “It’s only a theory” is a common refrain amongst the opponents of Darwin. In my experience, this is usually amongst those who have not read books about evolution by mainstream scientists and they miss the point about Darwin’s great contribution. Evolution is a fact – there is simply no question that life has continuously evolved on earth over a fantastically long period of time. Go back far enough in the fossil record and the most advanced life-forms on earth will not be mammals or reptiles: they will be fish. Darwin’s singular and lasting contribution was to identify a mechanism by which this change had occurred: natural selection.

There are many reasons why Darwin is regarded as a hero amongst scientists, but let me take one of my own favourite examples. Back in 1862 a British orchid grower sent Darwin some orchids from Madagascar including:

the beautiful and star-shaped flower of Angraecum sesquipedale. This has an exceptionally long nectary (getting on for 30 cm) and in a book on orchid pollination, Darwin suggested that this extreme feature may have evolved alongside a moth with an exceptionally long tongue to pollinate it.

Darwin had used his understanding of evolution and how species co-evolve to predict that there must be a creature with a proboscis long enough to pollinate that flower – even if such a creature was not known at the time.

In 1907, more than 20 years after Darwin’s death, a subspecies of the gigantic Congo moth from Madagascar was identified and named as X. morganii praedicta apparently fulfilling Darwin’s prediction (the name indicating that it was predicted, though actually in the paper naming the moth Darwin wasn’t mentioned). The moth is large at around 16cm in wingspan, but the proboscis is truly colossal and can be more than 20cm in length forming a huge coil in front of the head when not in use. However, while there was now an orchid with a long nectary and a moth with a huge tongue, the question remained: did X. morganii praedicta really feed on A. sesquipedale?

It wasn’t until 1992, nearly a century later, that observations were made of the moth feeding on the flower and transferring pollen from plant to plant with both videos and stills being taken. This was observed in the wild and confirmed further with studies in captivity. Thus more than 130 years after Darwin first suggested that a large moth pollinated an African orchid, his hypothesis was confirmed. It took quite some time, but quite clearly Darwin’s prediction, based on extremely limited evidence but bolstered by his understanding of his own new theory of natural selection, was correct.

Was Darwin a believer in God? Historians are divided on this issue. While Darwin himself makes clear that when he first climbed aboard the Beagle, he held orthodox Christian views, there is no question that over time Darwin became less and less convinced by some of the main tenets of Christianity and indeed was appalled by some of them.

…disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct. I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all of my friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine.

Darwin could not bring himself to believe that a merciful God would condemn to everlasting torment those who did not believe in Him. When pressed, he would say that he preferred to regard himself as an agnostic on the question of whether there is a Creator.

The BBC’s The Voyage of Charles Darwin is utterly compelling viewing. It is gripping to watch Darwin as he begins to question long-held assumptions and begins to feel his way towards a more convincing theory about the origin of species or the “mystery of mysteries” as he also termed it. The series was filmed on location in South America and this adds immeasurably to the power of the drama as we witness the genesis of Darwin’s insights at the very same locations that he visited almost two centuries ago.  This is must-see television at its very best.


Pre-Requisites for Ijtihad – From Molla Fenari’s “Usul”

Lost Islamic History - 29 October, 2017 - 02:48

The use of independent reasoning, known as ijtihād, has always played a prominent role in the derivation of Islamic law. While it is often portrayed today as a practice that groups such as Muslim modernists and Salafis seek to “bring back”, ijtihād has continuously been employed as part of the Islamic intellectual tradition, with jurists throughout the centuries commenting on when and how it is to be used.

In this excerpt from Molla Şemseddin Fenari’s (d. 1431) Fuṣūl al-Badāʼiʻ fī Uṣūl al-Sharāʼi, the early Ottoman jurist lays out the prerequisites one must attain before being qualified to exercise ijtihād in Islamic law. He includes this section near the end of his work, after having already explained how the Qurʾān, Sunnah, consensus, and analogical reasoning operate in Islamic legal theory.

 

The conditions for one to practice ijtihād are that they master the following three sciences:

  1. That one know the verses of the Qurʾān that are related to knowledge of rulings linguistically, meaning both individually and how they fit together. [For this] one needs the linguistic sciences of morphology, syntax, semantics, and communication, either naturally [through being raised in the language] or through training. One also needs [knowledge of rulings] technically, meaning the utmost understanding of rulings and their divisions, being able to differentiate between specific and general, ambiguity and clarity, abrogating and abrogated, et cetera. The general rule is that one should be capable of deriving from it [the Qurʾān] what is incumbent for one to do.
  2. Knowledge of the Sunnah that is related to it [legal rulings]. Meaning both what was uttered and what was legislated as we have mentioned [earlier] as well as chain of transmission, meaning the path by which reports have come to us through parallel chains and other means. And one must be able to verify the knowledge of the narrators in accordance with criticism and praise [of them], verify reports, know the types of reports, et cetera. In our time, the path to this knowledge is through sufficient review of the imams that are relied upon, due to the difficult reality of narrating in this day.
  3. Knowledge of qiyās (analogical reasoning), including its bases, conditions, and the types that have been accepted as well as those that have been rejected. And one must know the issues that have already been agreed upon (by the jurists) so that they would not violate that consensus. One does not need to know kalām (dialectical theology) since one can be a Muslim as a follower [as opposed to devising rational proofs for theology on their own]. Although it is better for one to know an apportioned amount that pertains to Allah, His necessary existence, His pre-eternality, His life, His power, His speech, that it is rationally possible for a person to be held responsible by Allah, the sending of the prophets, and their miracles and laws, even if one does not go the path of knowing all of the detailed proofs as opposed to the general proofs for these. One also does not need to know fiqh (positive law) as that is the fruit of ijtihād, although in our day pursuit of it is the path through which one acquires the ability to do ijtihād.

The women who put their lives on the line for peace in Central African Republic

The Guardian World news: Islam - 28 October, 2017 - 21:00

When sectarian conflict wrought division in Boda, women in the southern Central African town formed a united front to appeal for calm. Three years on, Muslims and Christians live in greater harmony

Derelict homes, swallowed up by grass and trees, stand empty along the road near to the centre of Boda. There are vacant patches where buildings once stood. When deadly conflict spread to the town in Central African Republic’s southern Lobaye prefecture in 2014, homes were burned and residents fled. The road became known as the “red zone”, a line that separated Muslims and Christians. Thousands were trapped without access to food or medicine. Those who crossed into a rival area risked their lives: murders, decapitations, rapes and looting were carried out with impunity.

But as the fighting spread, Boda’s women refused to obey the town’s battle lines.

Related: 'People are dying': violence forces aid workers out of Central African Republic

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Catalonia: 2017 is not 1936

Indigo Jo Blogs - 28 October, 2017 - 19:44

Yesterday someone I’d never heard of, but apparently gets TV show appearances in the US, posted a tweet containing a ridiculously irrelevant observation about the current situation in Catalonia, the province of Spain whose political leaders are trying to break away from Spain, which is resisting:

I posted in response that the last time Spain had a civil war, it involved fascists who were already in power in Italy and Germany, and the war was about how the whole of Spain was governed, not the secession of one province. She replied:

 the 'Military' practice of the rebels" and underneath "If you tolerate this, your children will be next". At the bottom, in dark blue text, it reads "Ministerio de Propaganda".I’m actually also a politics graduate (my degree was called politics and history), but you don’t need to be a politics or history graduate to know that the Spanish Civil War was a totally different situation from the current situation and that the world was a quite different place then. The Second World War was not in any way the result of the Spanish Civil War; it was the result of Hitler’s imperial and genocidal ambitions (and Hirohito’s imperial ambitions) which were not shared by Franco, who refused to deport the country’s Jewish population to the Nazi camps. Neither the present Spanish government nor the Catalan secessionists are fascists, nor are they the Communists who came to dominate the Spanish Republicans as amply documented by the likes of George Orwell. No other Spanish provinces are currently attempting to join Catalonia, nor are neighbouring countries trying to encourage or assist them (France has already said it will not recognise a breakaway state of Catalonia and the European Commission have also agreed that the referendum was illegal). Spain is currently nowhere near repressive enough to provoke an armed resistance in Catalonia or anywhere else (as was the case in the Basque Country under Franco), although this could change. There is simply no material for another Spanish civil war at present.

Christiana Mbakwe used two logical fallacies in her response. One was an ad hominem, namely the accusation of ‘mansplaining’, a neologism intended to mean something like “a man patronisingly explaining something to a woman with the presumption that he knows better because he is a man” but commonly used to mean “a man telling a woman something she doesn’t want to hear” (more on this use of the term here). The second was the “argument from authority”, namely the invocation of her political science degree to tell me I have no right to an opinion on the subject as she must by some definition know better than I do; in fact, you don’t need a degree to know this history, and it’s not as if your political science professors are immune from bias even if you do. It’s become fashionable for women with access to the media to use this “dual fallacy” when men disagree with them on social media, to suggest that their ‘qualifications’ consist of a penis and a Twitter account while they are a ‘real journalist’ or an expert when such people often talk outside of their expertise, or just lie (the American journalist Victoria Brownworth is one of the worst offenders; she also likes to remind anyone who disagrees with her of the awards she’s won). I’ve checked to see if Ms Mbakwe is a world-renowned expert on the Spanish Civil War; she has had articles published in various online and paper publications and none of them are about that subject, and maybe she’s published a world-renowned reference text on the subject but Foyle’s of London has no record of it.

It’s not the first time that a civil or other local war, actual or feared, has attracted apocalyptic predictions from media pundits. The Gulf War was supposed to go nuclear and drag the Iranians and others in, while Yugoslavia was predicted to lead to a massive regional conflagration and involve Turkey and Russia. Neither happened, although Bosnia in particular was the scene of the second genocide in living memory in Europe. Catalonia is not even in that league; Spain is a democracy while the former Yugoslavia was not, but a one-party state. I predict that it will not take military force to put down the unconstitutional secession attempt by the former Catalan government (who knew it was unconstitutional and that the Spanish government would not accept it beforehand); there is no secessionist army and it will take only the police to arrest the leaders of the former government. Unless Rajoy does something very stupid, there aren’t enough Catalans willing to go to war to break away from Spain.

So, Christiana Mbakwe’s tweet was a bit of overexcited scaremongering. Certain social justice types online like to lecture us white men that if we’re told we’re being racist and/or sexist, to accept it with good grace instead of disputing it (even though the accusations are often spurious or even malicious, and delivered abusively); if you are told that you are being ridiculous and irresponsible, I suggest doing the same rather than resorting to personal arguments. We are not in the 1930s; there aren’t fascists in power everywhere, and Spain is not facing a fascist takeover. It doesn’t take a politics grad to know that.

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Muslim Food Groups: How to Improve Community Nutrition

Muslim Matters - 27 October, 2017 - 22:25

By Shireen Hakim

After a stimulating evening lecture at an organized masjid in Orange County, California, I stopped by their burgeoning snack bar where halal dinner was advertised, my mouth watering.

“We have pizza for the kids, or halal burgers for the adults,” the efficient hijab-clad volunteer informed me.

“Oh, I try not to eat red meat often, and I am gluten-free for health reasons,” I said, disappointed.

“There is chicken biryani.” She showed me the container dripping with oil. I shook my head.

“Chips, candy…”

Stop, I thought.

“No, thank you.”

I left the line as the 10-year old boy behind me bought a bag of M&M’s and soda for dinner. Hey, at least they have water bottles right?

Flash forward to my yearly nutrition presentation at my local Los Angeles County masjid’s family night, post-Ramadan. Audience members write down my nutrition recommendations. Afterwards, they describe the healthy dishes they prepare at home, and I am proud of the progress they have made since I became a public health dietitian eight years ago.

But as usual, the families complain to me about the unhealthy food they are served at the masjid, catered from halal restaurants; oily meat curry, white pita bread and rice, and green slime formerly known as spinach (okay the last one is my own description). Likewise, they bemoan their difficulty in losing weight because of the fattening food. I, like a few other smart program attendees, now skip the provided meal and eat before at home. However, once in a while, I succumb to eating the unhealthy food at the masjid, to celebrate with company on Eid or at an interfaith dinner. I can’t always fill up on the wilted lettuce and plain carrots they serve as “salad.”

Muslim individuals and families are practicing good nutrition at home, but our community is lacking proper nutrition. We need to improve the nutrition at the community-level by offering quality food at public venues and masjid events. Now, I am directing my nutritional advice to the audience that provides the food. To the masjids and halal restaurants, attention. The main food groups are not curry, roti, oil-soaked vegetables, and pizza!

Islam represents all aspects of life, including nutrition. The Qur’an states, “…Eat of the good things…” (23:51). Masjids are the community’s leading example of Islam. When we attend the masjid, we strive to practice the best Islam. We dress modestly, we are polite, and we volunteer. Therefore, at the masjid we should eat healthy. Masjids need to improve their nutrition in order to meet the ideals of Islam, and to set a positive example for the community to follow.

Further, our community’s health is suffering because of the food we are subjected to at public gatherings. At only 40 to 50 years of age, Muslim-Americans are overweight, have heart disease, and even die. According to the Asia and Pacific Islander American Health Forum, South Asian men in the US have “three times higher heart attack rates than the general US population.”

We can work to improve our nutrition with four steps:

  1. First, we need to fund masjids so they can afford quality ingredients and caterers. In turn, we should pay a fair amount for good food we receive, and not expect/demand free food. We can’t have high expectations if we invest nothing. Think lunch at Taco Bell versus Chipotle. Accordingly, masjids need to stop offering free junk food as a gimmick to entice people to come to the masjid. Masjids should charge a reasonable fee for food, and increase the budget for food costs. Masjids are not Chuck E Cheese’s. Use other tactics- like a bounce house or game room- to attract attendees. Speaking of Chuck E Cheese’s, provide healthy food for kids like macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and juice. Don’t make them choke down the curry or serve them pizza and soda every event.
  2. Secondly, we need to communicate our nutrition preferences to the masjid and halal restaurants. There is no room for finger pointing or blaming “the masjid.” We are the masjid. Get involved at your masjid and provide feedback at board meetings, food committee meetings, volunteer meetings, email, etc. Ask for nutrition education programs. Accordingly, talk to restaurant owners and comment on Zabihah.com and Yelp.
  3. Thirdly, choose the healthy dishes-vegetarian, baked, and grilled- offered at the masjid and parties, so they serve them more. Omar ibn Al-Khattaab raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), who the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said would have been the next prophet if there was one, said, “Beware of meat, for it has addictiveness like wine.” (Muwatta Malik)
    Specific foods to choose: cholay (garbanzo beans), falafel, hummus, dal (lentils), fresh/grilled vegetables, labneh/dahi (yogurt), seafood, and beans.
  4. Lastly, masjids should cater from healthy vendors like Mediterranean/Middle Eastern restaurants and home cooks. I recommend Mediterranean restaurants because they cook with olive oil. The Prophet, ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Eat olives and use its oil…” (Tirmidhi). These restaraunts also usually have many vegetarian and fermented (probiotic-filled) dishes. Hispanic and Asian halal restaurants also offer healthy options. Choose vegetarian and baked/grilled dishes from South Asian restaurants. It is possible to find healthy halal restaurants. In my suburb, Jasmine Restaurant has an organic salad bar and fresh green juice!

There are steps we can take to get the healthy food we want at masjid events and halal restaurants. Get involved at your masjid and verbalize your nutrition needs. Masjids and restaurants, listen to your community.

Shireen Hakim is an award-winning author with a Master’s in Nutrition from Columbia University. She was an expert source for Buzzfeed’s Ramadan nutrition articles, and her nutrition article is viral on Islamic Online University blog. Her writing can be found at her Facebook page: @WriterinaHeadscarf, and she can be found at the Los Angeles cat cafe.

 

If in doubt, blame Putin

Indigo Jo Blogs - 27 October, 2017 - 21:44

The front page of the Sun newsaper, with the headline "Be-Leave in Britain", with a Union flag layered under the word "LEAVE". At the bottom of the page it says "Vote to quit EU on June 23".Last Sunday there was a Nick Cohen article in the Observer about Russian influence and how, for example, Russian “dark money” is suspected of funding the Leave campaign now that it appears Arron Banks isn’t as rich as we had been led to believe:

The FBI is investigating how Russia hacked the Clinton campaign and used Facebook and Twitter to spread fake news. Ukrainians are preparing for the next stage of resistance to Russian forces. European foreign ministries and intelligence services have finally understood that Russia’s imperial strategy is to weaken the EU and Nato in every country except, it seems, this sceptred isle.

Russia knows its best tactic is to use migrant crises to stoke nativist fears. “German government threw their country under feet of migrants like a rug, now try wipe their crimes under carpet,” tweeted the Russian embassy in London in 2016 as the Kremlin began a successful campaign to promote the interests of the chauvinists in Alternative for Germany. A bank close to Vladimir Putin loaned $10m to Marine le Pen’s anti-EU Front National. He encouraged the anti-immigrant Freedom party in Austria, the Lega Nord in Italy and Jobbik in Hungary.

Cohen also gets in a dig at Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell for having appeared on RT (Russia Today), the Kremlin-backed English-language TV channel, as well as their “satirically named ‘justice’ spokesman”, Richard Burgon, who “has never denounced the injustice Putin brings to Russia and the wider world during the nine occasions RT has had him on air”.

I’m no great fan of Vladimir Putin. He’s corrupt, dictatorial, has started a civil war in and then invaded Ukraine and presided over the destruction of Chechnya, the reign of terror of Ramazan Kadyrov and his thugs complete with the assassinations of journalists who tried to investigate his abuses, like Anna Politkovskaya (and plenty of ordinary Chechens). But blaming him for Brexit, like blaming him for Trump, is taking it a bit too far. This was a disaster cooked up in western newspaper offices and think-tanks, and even if Putin was able to channel money to campaigners via people like Arron Banks and fund billboard adverts and battle-buses, it’s unlikely his role was decisive when there has been a campaign against the EU by London newspapers, particularly the Daily Mail, going back at least to the Maastricht debates of the 1990s, and other major newspapers including the Sun also supported Leave and have ridiculed the EU, often conflating it with the European Convention on Human Rights, with which it has no connection, blaming it for anything a Tory government cannot do.

The obsession with finding an explanation for Trump’s victory or the Brexit vote which Russian influence is puzzling. There is no suggestion that the Russians have been tampering with voting machines or otherwise interfering in the ballots themselves; the claims have all been about funding, about propaganda, about fake news, in all of which they were at the very least matched by those they supported in Britain or America. No amount of Russian money could have bought the election for Trump without enough Americans being racist enough to overlook his open and violent racism when he made vague promises about jobs or “America first”, or misogynistic enough to ignore his misogyny, and so on — let alone those who actually shared his attitudes, of course. No amount of Russian money could have bought Brexit without the decades of propaganda from the Tory press here — not to mention other unaccountable sources of funding for think-tanks and pressure groups in both countries whose spokesmen are frequently presented as experts or voices from the grassroots in the media.

It’s sad to see the Left (even the Nick Cohen type ‘soft left’) looking to foreign influences to blame for damaging decisions made by people in their own countries. It’s very reminiscent of what dictators do when faced with dissent in their own countries (Assad of Syria being a well-known recent example). There were real reasons why people in the UK voted for Brexit as well as racism and Little-Englanderism; people need to examine Britain’s manner of engagement with Europe and how it damaged British industry and workers rather than dismiss British voters as dupes of Russian propaganda.

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Halal/Schechita Slaughter Needs to Adapt To End Cruelty To Animals

Inayat's Corner - 27 October, 2017 - 00:21

The decision today by Lancashire County Council to only supply halal meat to schools if it has been pre-stunned is a difficult but necessary step if we are to see progress made in the area of Halal/Schechita slaughter.

It is surely an anachronism that the official UK government guidelines continue to state that you must stun all animals prior to slaughter “unless an animal is being religiously slaughtered for halal or kosher meat.” Why should the religious sensibilities of some Jews and Muslims be allowed to triumph when it comes to subjecting animals to unnecessary cruelty. We should call on our government to stand up for moral and ethical progress in the area of animal rights and end this cowardly exemption.

The Telegraph today quotes Abdul Hameed Qureshi – the Chair of the Lancashire Council of Mosques as saying: “[The RSPCA’s guidance] is most of the time based on feelings, it’s not scientifically conclusive.”

A spokesperson for the RSPCA told the Telegraph that they rejected this categorisation of their position, saying: “I utterly, completely refuse to cede that’s where our views come from. Ourselves, the British Veterinary Association and the Humane Slaughter Association signed a joint statement saying the only humane way to kill an animal is to stun it. There is countless scientific evidence showing that when an animal has its neck cut it feels quite considerable pain. The farm animal welfare council is of the opinion that the only humane way to kill an animal to stun it. You take New Zealand – everything is pre-stunned there, and it’s all Halal, it’s exported to countries in the Middle East and they all accept that it is Halal. We, for animal welfare reasons, would be quite happy if unstunned meat was banned across the UK.”

You can read more about the RSPCA’s position on stunning before slaughter on their website here.

It is understood that the National Secular Society has written to the Environment Secretary Michael Gove urging him to remove the religious exemption for Muslims and Jews from animal welfare legislation. It is highly doubtful that the idiot Gove – who is a hero to many in the Jewish community for his openly Zionist sympathies – will take any action.

Islam teaches that animals should not be mistreated when they are alive. Why do some blinkered Muslim and Jewish religious leaders continue therefore to insist on slaughtering animals while they are conscious without pre-stunning?

Several European governments including Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland, no longer allow religious exemptions on the grounds that “animal rights come before religion.”

We quite rightly no longer allow dogmatic religious views to prevail over human rights when it comes to gay marriages or freedom of speech. Why should they be allowed to ride roughshod over animal rights? Jewish and Islamic law needs to adapt to incorporate our advance in scientific knowledge about animal pain and the use of stunning to alleviate unnecessary cruelty to animals.


Tories disown firebrand Hindu activist after Commons visit

The Guardian World news: Islam - 26 October, 2017 - 18:33

Tapan Ghosh spoke in Commons despite reputation for incendiary rhetoric about religious minorities in India

Senior Tories have distanced themselves from a firebrand Hindu activist invited to speak at the House of Commons last week, after it emerged he had been jailed at least five times in India for stoking religious tensions.

Tapan Ghosh, the founder of Hindu Samhati, a controversial activist group based in India’s West Bengal state, spoke at an event in the UK parliament last week.

Related: ‘Love jihad’ in India and one man’s quest to prevent it | Aman Sethi

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Before we even think of expanding Heathrow …

Indigo Jo Blogs - 26 October, 2017 - 13:54

A group of people in yellow flourescent jackets standing in a circle in an open space marked for parking spaces, with cargo sheds behind them with some large vehicles in front of themSo, Heathrow expansion is in the news again, with another round of consultations being by the government this week and a report, the Airports National Policy Statement, being released which, according to the Daily Telegraph, “takes into account updated noise analysis and a new air quality plan as well as policy changes since the independent Airports Commission backed the Heathrow project in 2016”. The report also claims that “updated international evidence on vehicle emission forecasts was published at the end of September last year and this had to be considered in terms of the expansion’s potential compliance with emissions legislation” and that a north-western runway scheme could be carried out without “impacting the UK’s compliance of air quality limits”. The north-western runway would require the demolition of three villages, namely Longford, Harmondsworth and Sipson, and cause massive noise impacts on other neighbourhoods under the flight path, particularly to the east, such as Harlington and Cranford.

I’m against Heathrow expansion on principle; on the issue of greenhouse gas emissions alone, even the current volume of aviation, and the pumping of CO2 straight into the upper atmosphere, is unsustainable. And make no mistake: any new runway will attract more planes until it is used to capacity, as are the current two runways. All the assurances about noise mitigation, night flights and so on will be chipped away once the runway is opened, because airlines will still threaten to desert the UK for Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt or wherever if their demands are not met, and our leaving the EU, making us less attractive as a hub for European destinations to begin with, makes that even more likely.

What nobody has mentioned so far is the airport’s creaking cargo infrastructure. As a truck driver in the west London area, I have to visit the cargo terminals quite often and the inefficiency is staggering. Not all of it is the fault of the airport or the cargo handlers, but a large part of it is. It is not uncommon for drivers picking up or dropping cargo at the terminals, particularly on Shoreham Road (known as the Horseshoe) to have to wait several hours to get onto a bay. There are only a limited number of bays that can accommodate an articulated lorry, and none within view of at least one of the buildings, and you need a view of it because it’s where the counter is that tells you when it’s your turn. There is in theory a 4-hour waiting time limit, but on Monday evening I had to wait well over that time to get a bay, and much of it was spent standing resting on a railing because my truck was too far up to see, and other vehicles were parked in the way; when I did get the cargo, only half of it had been brought landside and a second truck had to be sent the following day to get the remaining boxes.

Part of the problem is sheer lack of space, even though many operators have their own cargo terminals both inside and outside the airport perimeter (particularly Virgin and DNATA, the Dubai-owned handler which serves a number of airlines, which have big depots along the Stanwell Road). But there is also inefficiency. They mostly operate in the pre-mobile phone era; rather than take drivers’ numbers and ring them when it’s their turn, they expect us to sit in our trucks (or stand in the street, even if it’s raining) watching their counter (which does not count in order, and gives no indication as to how long you will be waiting, which is essential as truck drivers have maximum working times), and when you tell the guy behind the counter that you can’t see the counter from where you’re parked, they say it’s not their business. It’s possible to pay the airline or their agent for quicker service, but this only prolongs the wait for other drivers. It would be much more efficient to require everyone with a vehicle over, say, 3.5 tonnes to book in, but really, they need to move it all out of the Horseshoe. It’s just too small and the delays caused by trucks reversing or parked on the road for lack of a bay often stretch out onto the main Perimeter Road.

We cannot add more runway capacity, and thus more planes bringing more cargo, until these infrastructure problems have been fixed. There is plenty of land around the airport and we can spare one or two fields so that cargo can be handled efficiently and drivers are not working 15-hour days (as happened to me on Monday) just because of waiting around on the Horseshoe.

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