Oppression of Rohingya May Have Led Some To Raise Arms

Loon Watch - 14 October, 2016 - 18:34


The Rohingya Muslims, a stateless minority who has faced systemic persecution including state-led violence at the hands of the Myanmar government and military authorities for decades are under siege once again. There has never been a meaningful militancy on the part of the Rohingya despite enduring what amounts to a genocide.

The narratives painting Rohingya and Muslims in Myanmar as terrorists, advanced by Buddhist nationalist extremists such as Wirathu may have received a boon through the current attacks on border outposts in the Western Rakhine state of Myanmar where a majority of Rohingya live. Videos that have not been authenticated show men speaking the Rohingya language and calling for “jihad” to liberate themselves from the oppression they face. It is unclear exactly what unfolded and who is responsible but the response by the Myanmar government has been excessive, already 26 Rohingya have been confirmed killed.

By Fiona MacGregor, Myanmar Times

Whether, when its shape becomes clearer, it will be revealed to also include some aspects of international terrorism remains to be seen, but the new form of ethno-religious conflict now stalking Rakhine State is unlikely to be vanquished quickly or easily, or without further loss of life.

Those who are at pains to point out that the public at least do not yet know who committed the attacks on three border police stations in northern Rakhine on October 9 – killing nine officers, and allegedly shouting the name “Rohingya” – are correct.

But what we do know is this: Rakhine is witnessing the worst violence it has seen since the 2012 troubles and there are now videos circulating on social media which apparently show armed men calling for jihad in the name of the Rohingya cause – videos that are being reposted by, among other high-profile figures, former information minister U Ye Htut.

In response, the military has launched violent assaults on Rohingya communities around Maungdaw, purportedly targeted as attackers, but which rights groups have said are extra-judicial killings. Yesterday, helicopters were seen at Sittwe Airport. They were there, officials said, to evacuate teachers from Maungdaw, but were clearly armed with rocket launchers.

With conflicts in other parts of the country now proving ongoing military impunity for war crimes and human rights abuses, the potential for death and destruction in Rakhine is manifold.

This is the most-dreaded scenario, feared by all those engaged in finding, and hoping for, a solution to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Rakhine. As of yesterday morning, a tally of state media reports indicated that 43 people – 30 alleged attackers and 13 security personnel – have been killed.

With senior authorities yet to divulge details or alleged affiliation of those accused of the attacks who have been capture alive, speculation has abounded.

Initial allegations by local government officials named the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation as being behind the incidents. The claim prompted widespread debate about whether such a group – last confirmed to have been active in the 1990s, but blamed by the government for a number of smaller-scale attacks on the border in the past two years – is still even in existence in any relation to its initial incarnation.

But the appearance of the two videos, which feature young men calling for jihad in the Rohingya language, has bolstered claims that there is at least some appetite for armed action among some minority Muslims, whatever name their group goes by.

Even if the current situation is brought under control quickly, these videos are not going to be forgotten by those who seek to stir nationalist aggression in this country – radical monk U Wirathu has inundated the internet with gleeful “told you so’s”. Nor can their implication be avoided by those who seek to uphold the rights of the vast majority of Rohingya who have remained peaceful despite suffering longstanding rights abuses.

A Rohingya representative speaking to The Myanmar Times yesterday rejected claims the attacks were drugs-related rather than representing some form of uprising.

Myanmar Border Police on October 11 prepare the flag-draped coffins bearing nine bodies of border guards killed two days earlier.AFPMyanmar Border Police on October 11 prepare the flag-draped coffins bearing nine bodies of border guards killed two days earlier.AFP

Nearly 7 million narcotics tablets, with an estimated street value of K14 billion (US$11.1 million), were seized during two raids in Maungdaw last month, leading some to speculate that the attacks on the police bases were some form of reprisal. However, the representative said that restrictions on movement meant large-scale involvement in, or serious profiteering from, the illegal trade would be difficult for people in Rohingya communities.

Abdul Rashid, a Rohingya rights campaigner, confirmed that those who appeared in the jihadist videos spoke the Rohingya language with a Rakhine (rather than Bangladeshi) accent. He added that one man “maybe studied” in Saudi Arabia as he was speaking Arabic, but the rest appeared to be local, based on their speech. None of his contacts in Maungdaw recognised any of those who appeared in the videos, he added.

“Most of them appear to be very young men or even boys. I don’t think they have leadership,” he said, rejecting the involvement of terrorists from other Eastern countries and describing it as a “small-scale” response arising out of “frustration” and deliberately fuelled by those seeking to destablise the current democratically elected government.

Nevertheless, this frustration – created by years of deliberate oppression – was something that needed to be addressed urgently, he said. He added that he had been warning the international community about such a threat and the possibility of such frustrations being used to further others’ agendas for a long time, but they had not taken his concerns seriously.

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Cure or accommodate? It’s not an either-or

Indigo Jo Blogs - 13 October, 2016 - 23:01

A picture of a woman in a wheelchair using a ramp to board a red London busYesterday I saw an advert for a free public lecture at the University of Melbourne (won’t be going; bit too far for me to travel) on the subject “Persons with Disabilities: Cure or Accommodate?” (HT: Carly Findlay). Part of the advertising blurb for the event reads:

“Where should scarce governmental resources be channelled: to improving function and finding cures or making reasonable adjustments to ensure persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in society?”

It then says that “it is the voices of people with disabilities themselves that must guide this debate” and three of the speakers have a disability (blindness in two cases, deafness in one); the other two are an audiologist, who runs an institution that fits cochlear implants, and a psychiatrist. Including a panel member with another type of impairment — say, a wheelchair user, or someone with a chronic illness — would make the panel rather more representative of the disabled community.

I’m not familiar with the Australian disability scene beyond a few big names (e.g. Stella Young) or with the five speakers named, so this event could prove to be very positive. However, the synopsis reflects some quite disturbing attitudes towards the matter of disability accommodation. One is that it’s about how to spend “scarce” resources; i.e. if you want accommodations, you will be spending other people’s money or depriving someone else of something. Living in the UK, I remember how the previous government justified cutting benefits and social care that allowed disabled people mobility and dignity (as well as a host of other public services, such as libraries) on the grounds that “the cupboard was bare” after the 2008 crash and the Labour government’s bailouts, yet when it came to repairing damage caused by the 2013/14 floods in parts of the country that had voted for the two coalition parties — when “the effluent hit the affluent” as commentators put it at the time — David Cameron suddenly boasted that “we’re a rich country; we can afford it”. Resources often aren’t as scarce as is made out, and the root of the scarcity is often people’s reluctance to pay their taxes.

The other is that “cure or accommodation” is an either-or, or a choice at all in most cases. For the vast majority of disabled people, it is not a choice; there simply is no ‘cure’, although this term is not even accurate as they are not ill. It has proven that much easier to find ways of eliminating pathogens or growths that cause loss of life or ongoing sickness than to repair or replace body parts that are damaged or missing. The cochlear implant is one important success story, but it cannot remedy all forms of deafness. Bionic eyes (the blind woman on the Melbourne panel has one) are in an early stage of development, but even they would not be able to remedy blindness which is neurological. Corneas can be transplanted, but they can also be rejected. It’s possible, in some cases, to implant electrodes into the spinal cord to allow a paraplegic to stand up, but that’s only a small return of function. Research into a cure for spinal cord injury progresses slowly, and seems to have modest goals in terms of what function it can restore, especially to someone with a high-level injury. The majority of impairments just have to be lived with.

On top of this, not all disabled people want to be cured, or should be expected to take whatever ‘cure’ is presented to them. Some deaf people cannot adjust to a cochlear implant; some blind people have forgotten what seeing is like, what colours and people look like (and may not know, for example, what their spouse looks like). They may have tried an operation to remedy their impairment in the past, perhaps more than once, and found that it failed, and do not want to go through it all again with the risk of having to re-adjust to, say, being blind all over again. The ‘cure’ may well be surgical, requiring a lengthy recovery (and the risks inherent in general anaesthetic), and cause an enormous amount of pain. It may have side effects that are worse than the condition they were meant to remedy. And some purported cures are not cures at all, but ineffective or harmful potions peddled by quacks and con men (bleach and anti-androgens for autism spring to mind). It’s not fair to expect anyone to submit themselves to pain and risk so as to save others some degree of expense, or hassle, or being disturbed by looking at them.

So, the question of “cure or accommodate” does not really arise. If you are called upon to accommodate someone who is disabled by providing some sort of assistive technology, or a modification to a building, or perhaps a member of staff to interpret or otherwise assist someone, or to educate your staff so as to change their behaviour or attitudes regarding disability, you are almost certainly not in a position to cure their impairment. The choice is between accommodation and exclusion. The resources that might be used for this are a fraction of the cost of research into cures, which requires manpower (and highly-paid manpower at that), laboratory time, tests, the upkeep of all the buildings used, and so on, over a period of years, during which many people might have lost out on education or on employment opportunities, or may have spent the time confined in an institution because someone preferred “researching a cure” to facilitating them having a life in the community, and the research might not bear fruit anyway. Research also attracts private funding from trusts and individuals, so it need not take away resources that could be used to benefit disabled people now. Between certain gain in the short, medium and long terms and uncertain long-term gain (accompanied by certain losses for those affected), if it’s really a competition for resources, there’s just no contest.

Possibly Related Posts:

High court overturns lifetime bans for Trojan horse teachers

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 October, 2016 - 19:54

Judge cites ‘serious procedural impropriety’ in major setback for DfE over handling of Park View school allegations

The high court has thrown out the lifetime bans imposed by the Department for Education on two teachers caught up in the Trojan horse controversy.

The decision is a latest setback for the DfE in its handling of allegations of Islamic influence at Park View secondary school in Birmingham dating back to 2014, and may hinder disciplinary hearings against others still under way.

Related: Trojan horse school case based on misinformation, tribunal told

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Why the Muslim Vote will be Crucial in this Election

altmuslim - 13 October, 2016 - 16:47
This is the second in a four-part series focusing on the 2016 election cycle and how American Muslim communities factor into the political process. Click here for part one. By Youssef Chouhoud One of the hallmark theories in political science is the so-called “paradox of voting.” The reward citizens get from casting a ballot, according to [Read More...]

Armed '3%' militia fights against proposed mosque in tiny Georgia town

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 October, 2016 - 16:28

An existing Muslim congregation seeking a larger building has had to face opposition from a militia group that claims it will be an Isis training ground

A Muslim congregation in central Georgia that wants to build a mosque faces opposition from an armed “3%” militia that has terrorized county officials and smeared the mosque as a training ground for the Islamic State.

The militia’s actions have forced the cancellation of a county meeting meant to discuss the application to build the mosque, a move commissioners blamed on “uncivil threats or intentions [that] must be taken seriously”.

Related: Oregon standoff tension mounts as so-called '3%' groups refuse to leave

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Two Blackburn faith schools top charts for GCSE progress

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 October, 2016 - 13:49

Tauheedul Islam girls’ and boys’ schools ranked first and second of all schools in England using government’s new measure

Two state faith schools in Blackburn topped national tables for the biggest improvement in their pupils’ performance in GCSE exams this year, with grammar schools trailing behind a string of comprehensives and faith schools.

Tauheedul Islam girls’ high school in Blackburn came top for all schools in England using the government’s new Progress 8 measure of attainment, published on Thursday for the first time.

Related: Biggest drop in GCSE pass rate for 30 years due to exam changes

Related: Coalition Britain: do free schools work?

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Who benefits from a chess championship boycott? Not Iranian women | Ghoncheh Ghavami

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 October, 2016 - 12:24

Instead of withdrawing because of Iran’s hijab rule, Nazí Paikidze should come and see how our society really works – and how women fight oppression every day

The American chess champion Nazí Paikidze has announced that she will boycott next year’s women’s world chess championship hosted by Iran, in protest at the Islamic Republic’s mandatory hijab rule for women. In an online petition, she says that she views wearing of the hijab – which is compulsory for female visitors in Iran – as supporting the oppression of women.

In response to the hijab controversy, Sara Khadem and Mitra Hejazipour, Iranian woman grandmasters, have made clear in interviews with the Guardian and the New York Times that they believe a boycott would be detrimental to women’s sports in Iran. The story – which was immediately reduced to a binary between women’s sport versus the right to wear what you want – has stirred widespread discussions in the media and on social networks.

Related: Boycott of world chess championship 'would hurt women in Iran'

Related: Why so many Iranians have come to hate the hijab

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Asia Bibi blasphemy appeal adjourned in Pakistan as judge pulls out

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 October, 2016 - 09:44

Final appeal of Christian woman sentenced to death under blasphemy laws delayed over judge’s involvement in related case

The long-awaited final appeal of a Christian woman sentenced to death under Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws has been adjourned after a judge said he could not hear the case.

Justice Muhammad Iqbal Hameed-ur-Rehman, one of three judges who met amid heightened security in Islamabad to hear the appeal, said he could not rule on whether Asia Bibi’s 2010 conviction for insulting the prophet Muhammad should stand because of his involvement in a related case.

Related: The Guardian view on blasphemy in Pakistan: a dark moment for religious freedom approaches | Editorial

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Ashura | Poetry

Muslim Matters - 13 October, 2016 - 03:38


I saw a casket go by, and as it passed,
An image came to mind – long was its path.
I thought of the years, the tears and the laughs…
Signs for the future writ in blood of the past.

An image came to mind – long was its path:
A revolution planned so the circle can last.
Signs for the future writ in blood of the past…
Lines sound familiar but now we are the cast.

A revolution planned so the circle can last…
Every day's Ashura and the armies amass,
Lines sound familiar but now we are the cast.
Crying out, “Imam-e-man Husayn ast!”

Today is Ashura and the armies amass…
I think of the years, the tears and the laughs.
I cry out “Imam-e-man Husayn ast!”
Today is Ashura, some truths can never pass…

© Cyrus McGoldrick, Muharram 1438

How to Read the Sky to Find the Qibla

Muslim Matters - 12 October, 2016 - 22:07


وَعَلامَاتٍ وَبِٱلنَّجْمِ هُمْ يَهْتَدُونَ

“And landmarks. And by the stars they are [also] guided.” [16:16]

You're on a road trip and it's time to pray Maghrib and 'Isha. You pull into a rest area and make wudu. How do you know which direction to face?

Most of us would probably pull out a smartphone and use our qibla app. But there's a much cooler way of finding the Qibla.

Before we had smartphones, Muslim sailors and merchants developed the art of reading the stars for navigation. If you've never looked up at the sky, you might not have realized that stars don't stay in the same place. As the earth rotates, stars appear to be in different positions.

Except one.

Muslim sailors called it al-Qiblah and it is found in the constellation they named al-Rakabah. We know it as the North Star, found in the Little Dipper.

Once you do this a few times, it becomes really easy to spot the north star and know the qiblah. You'll find it even faster than the time it takes to open up the app on your smartphone. Plus you'll get major coolness points for doing this in front of other people.


Step 1- Locate Banat Naash al-Kubra (The Big Dipper)

The easiest way to find the north star is by first finding the Big Dipper. This is one of the easiest constellations to find. Look for a large spoon shaped constellation. Three stars in the handle, four stars in the head.

See it?



Step 2-Trace a line to al-Qiblah (the north star)

Imagine a line that connects the front two stars of the Big Dipper. If you follow that line, about five times the distance will be the north star. It's the first bright star you'll run into that's close to this vector.


Step 3-Trust but verify

You don't want to accidentally be praying in the wrong direction so make sure that you're actually at the north star. The north star is part of the constellation the Muslims called al-Rakabah, or, as we commonly know it, the Little Dipper. The north star is the last star in the handle. The Little Dipper floats above the Big Dipper, as if it is pouring water into the Big Dipper.

Try it out:


image-7 image-8



image-71 image-81

Once you know where north is, finding the Qibla is pretty easy. If you're in America, it's North East, so face the north star and it's half a turn to your right (i.e., clockwise).

Unfortunately, this only works in the northern hemisphere. If you're in Australia, stay tuned for how to find the Qibla in the southern hemisphere!


“Hailing from the Midwest, YetAnotherParaclete is a 4th year medical student preparing for a career in psychiatry. He completed his undergraduate studies with a triple major in Biology, History, and Psychology. YetAnotherParaclete hosts a blog aimed at cultivating holistic Muslim men at








Boredom Will Do

Loon Watch - 11 October, 2016 - 22:26


Original Guest Article, Part 6/6

By Umar Lee

In 1992 I had just met a young enthusiastic convert to Islam named Randy Royer. In fact I was the first person he met when he walked into the masjid for the first time and I was a witness for his shahadah. Although the two of us both grew-up in St. Louis County our families, neighborhoods, schools, and path to both Islam and political activism was much different.

Randy grew-up in an artistic and educated family and I grew-up in a blue-collar Southern Baptist family. Randy lived in an upper middle-class neighborhood in West St. Louis County  (which I saw as fabulously wealthy at the time) and I lived in the working-class Ferguson-Florissant area.

We were both teenagers at the time and had both done poorly in high school. While we were poor students in school we were both bookish and had a love for learning and bonded over books and being the only two teenagers in a mosque mostly populated by men our parents age.

In 1992, just as in 2016, Washington University in St. Louis, hosted a presidential debate. Randy told me he would be protesting the debate along with a group of his punk rock buddies from West County and invited me to join. That would be the first of many political protests in my life.

I won’t bore you about the slightly amusing details of that day or our run-ins with supporters of President George H.W. Bush. Instead I want to use 1992 to talk about 2016.

1992 featured the fresh face of Democratic Nominee Bill Clinton playing saxophone on the Arsenio Hall show, answering questions about his underwear on MTV,  facing rumors about his womanizing, and answering veterans for his failure to serve in Vietnam. The race also featured H. Ross Perot who like Donald Trump was a billionaire political-outsider promising to run America like a business. Then you had the incumbent President Bush who had all the enthusiasm his son Jeb would display in 2016.

The election of 1992 seemed like a wild-ride at the time. Looking back it seems like a black and white movie or an old action film without modern film-making technology. Nothing in our past has prepared us for the pure crassness and lunacy of the candidacy of Donald Trump.

Randy would go on to be known as Ismail and would become a prominent Muslim activist living and working in Washington, DC. Working for CAIR, AMC, and MAS, Ismail helped win some major civil-rights victories for Muslims. However, it was his activism outside of DC that would lead my friend Ismail to trouble.

Watching the slaughter of Muslims in Bosnia on TV Ismail wasn’t satisfied to just write his Congressman or participate in marches. Ismail went to Bosnia and volunteered to fight with the mujahideen. Later he’d do the same in Kashmir.

Today Ismail is nearing the end of a 20 year prison sentence. Ismail, like a lot of other good and sincere Muslims, fell victim to overzealous federal prosecutions after 9/11.

I never went to Bosnia and Kashmir. Perhaps it was due to my blue-collar upbringing and a keen sense of knowing when something spells trouble or having enough adventure at home.

Ismail sought to help create a more perfect world. Pessimists like myself reject utopian ideologies knowing that you may be able to improve the world a little bit; but humanity is so flawed we will never come near perfection. That’s why I have no problem compromising and voting for a Hillary Clinton or a Chris Koster. Yeah, they’re not great, but people aren’t great and for the moment it’s the best we can do.

On the flip side of the coin you have other utopian believers. They want to Make America Great Again and they’ve placed all of their faith in Donald Trump.  In their utopian vision America peaked in the 1950’s and they want to bring it back. Like all utopian visions, from left to right (Jill Stein included), it can’t be achieved without massive destruction to actual humans.

I mentioned before that Ismail  (and me to be honest) found it too boring to write our congressman. Ismail’s congressman happened to be Richard Gephardt. A flawed congressman indeed with a shady racial past as a St. Louis Alderman. Congressman Gephardt, while we were busy talking about Bosnia, was helping to make St. Louis the biggest hub for Bosnian refugees in America. Today St. Louis is home to a thriving Bosnian community with minarets surrounded by malls.

Sometimes boring will suffice.

Reflections on the Day of ‘Ashuraa | Sh. Waleed Basyouni

Muslim Matters - 11 October, 2016 - 21:53

Today is 'Ashuraa', a day we fast in commemoration of our beloved Prophet Musa's safe escape from Fir'awn and his tyranny. I would like to share a few thoughts on this blessed occasion.

No story is repeated in the Qur'an as often as the story of Musa (as). His story has been referenced 136 times! Out of all nations, Allah chose to tell us the most about the Children of Israel, especially in the Makkan Suwar. Their tales fill Surat Al-Baqarah, Aali-'Imraan, Al-An'aam, Al-A'raaf, Al-Israa', Yunus, Hud, and many others. This is mainly because these stories are full of lessons for us to learn from, and the trials of Bani Isra'il and our own trials bear a very similar resemblance. For this reason, we must carefully study what Allah has told us about them, so that we may benefit from their experiences through Allah's guidance. At this time, I would like to share some of the stories and lessons that we should reflect on as we fast this blessed day of 'Ashuraa on which Allah saved Musa and his people from Fir'awn and his army.

1. We must first realize that this day marks a monumental event, one that changed the course of history. It is a day when good triumphed over evil, when the oppressed rose above their oppressors. Generations after generations knew of this day and celebrated it. Even the Pre-Islamic Arabs used to venerate this day and some would fast it.

2. Our commemoration of this event is significant in that it shows us that the bonds of faith, truth, and justice, are stronger than any other bonds, be they tribal, racial, national, or other. The Prophet (s) told us that we have more of a right to celebrate Musa than even the Jews did, even though our race, language, culture, and time are all different.

3. This event gives us hope and reminds us that all oppression, even extreme tyranny like Fir'awn's will inevitably be destroyed. “Indeed, Pharaoh exalted himself in the land and made its people into factions, oppressing a sector among them, slaughtering their [newborn] sons and keeping their females alive. Indeed, he was of the corrupters.” (Al-Qasas 4)

4. It reminds us that victory will eventually be for the believers, the patient, and the oppressed regardless of how powerful the oppressor is or how long the oppression lasts. “And We wanted to confer favor upon those who were oppressed in the land and make them leaders and make them inheritors, and establish them in the land and show Pharaoh and [his minister] Haman and their soldiers through them that which they had feared.” (Al-Qasas 5-6) “Said Moses to his people, 'Seek help through Allah and be patient. Indeed, the earth belongs to Allah. He causes to inherit it whom He wills of His servants. And the [best] outcome is for the righteous.'” (Al-A'raaf 128)

5. It illustrates how Allah is the best of planners, for “[the decree of] Allah came upon them from where they had not expected.” (Al-Hashr:2) Pharaoh commanded that all the Israelites newborns be killed in order to protect his kingdom. Yet, it was this very command that caused Musa to be cast into a river and end up in Pharaoh's home where he could learn the ins and outs of Pharaoh's life! “'Cast him into the chest and cast it into the river, and the river will throw it onto the bank; there will take him an enemy to Me and an enemy to him.' And I bestowed upon you love from Me that you would be brought up under My eye.” (TaHa: 39)

Allah caused the love of the infant Musa to enter the heart of Pharaoh's own wife, who raised him and was the first to believe in his message. The beams of faith thus emanated first from within Pharaoh's own home. “And the wife of Pharaoh said, “[He will be] a comfort of the eye for me and for you. Do not kill him; perhaps he may benefit us, or we may adopt him as a son.” And they perceived not.” (Al-Qasas:9) “And Allah presents an example of those who believed: the wife of Pharaoh, when she said, 'My Lord, build for me near You a house in Paradise and save me from Pharaoh and his deeds and save me from the wrongdoing people.'” (Al-Tahrim: 11)
Pharaoh sought support from the magicians, yet they were the first to publicly believe in Musa in front of all of Egypt! “So the magicians fell down in prostration. They said, 'We have believed in the Lord of Aaron and Moses.' [Pharaoh] said, 'You believed him before I gave you permission. Indeed, he is your leader who has taught you magic. So I will surely cut off your hands and your feet on opposite sides, and I will crucify you on the trunks of palm trees, and you will surely know which of us is more severe in [giving] punishment and more enduring.' They said, 'Never will we prefer you over what has come to us of clear proofs and [over] He who created us. So decree whatever you are to decree. You can only decree for this worldly life. Indeed, we have believed in our Lord that He may forgive us our sins and what you compelled us [to do] of magic. And Allah is better and more enduring.' Indeed, whoever comes to his Lord as a criminal – indeed, for him is Hell; he will neither die therein nor live. But whoever comes to Him as a believer having done righteous deeds – for those will be the highest degrees [in position].” (TaHa: 70-75)

6. The story teaches us to trust in Allah's promise and in His infinite Wisdom even when we don't understand why something is happening. “And We inspired to the mother of Moses, 'Suckle him; but when you fear for him, cast him into the river and do not fear and do not grieve. Indeed, We will return him to you and will make him [one] of the messengers.' And the family of Pharaoh picked him up [out of the river] so that he would become to them an enemy and a [cause of] grief. Indeed, Pharaoh and Haman and their soldiers were deliberate sinners.” (Al-Qasas:7-8) “So We restored him to his mother that she might be content and not grieve and that she would know that the promise of Allah is true. But most of the people do not know.” (Al-Qasas: 13)

This confidence in Allah was missing when Bani Isra'il said, “We have been harmed before you came to us and after you have come to us,” but Musa reminded them, “Perhaps your Lord will destroy your enemy and grant you succession in the land and see how you will do.” (Al-A'raf:129) Musa exhibited this trust in Allah in the direst of circumstances, trust that we must all develop. “And when the two companies saw one another, the companions of Moses said, 'Indeed, we are to be overtaken!' [Moses] said, 'No! Indeed, with me is my Lord; He will guide me.'” (Al-Shu'araa: 61-62)

7. Victory sometimes comes at the hands of the believers in Allah, and at other times, Allah destroys the disbelievers directly, such as at the sea with Musa or on the Day of the Trench with the Prophet Muhammad (s). “And Allah will be sufficient for you against them.” (Al-Baqarah:137)” Is not Allah sufficient for His Servant [Prophet Muhammad]?” (Al-Zumar: 36)

8. 'Ashuraa reminds us that disbelief and arrogance go hand in hand, as arrogance blinds a person from seeing the most obvious of signs. Faith is not a matter of reason; it is a spiritual and emotional state, a matter of the heart. “And they said, 'No matter what sign you bring us with which to bewitch us, we will not be believers in you.' So We sent upon them the flood and locusts and lice and frogs and blood as distinct signs, but they were arrogant and were a criminal people.” (Al-A'raf: 132-133) “And We took the Children of Israel across the sea, and Pharaoh and his soldiers pursued them in tyranny and enmity until, when drowning overtook him, he said, 'I believe that there is no deity except that in whom the Children of Israel believe, and I am of the Muslims.'” (Yunus: 90) And the result was that “We saved Moses and those with him, all together. Then We drowned the others.” (Al-Shu'araa: 65-66)

9. This day reminds us to turn to Allah in humble worship during times of trial and calamity, and to continuously pray for our safety and success. “So they said, “Upon Allah do we rely. Our Lord, make us not [objects of] trial for the wrongdoing people. And save us by Your mercy from the disbelieving people.'” (Yunus: 85-86) “Said Moses to his people, 'Seek help through Allah and be patient. Indeed, the earth belongs to Allah . He causes to inherit it whom He wills of His servants. And the [best] outcome is for the righteous.'” (Al-A'raf: 128) When praying at their temples became difficult, Allah commanded them to establish their prayers in their homes. “And We inspired to Moses and his brother, 'Settle your people in Egypt in houses and make your houses [facing the] qiblah and establish prayer and give good tidings to the believers.'” (Yunus: 87)

10. This day teaches us that all times are a test. Victory is honor, but it is also a test. “He said, 'Perhaps your Lord will destroy your enemy and grant you succession in the land and see how you will do.'” (Al-A'raf: 129)

11. 'Ashuraa teaches us that humans will be tested even after gaining the upper hand, but that one cannot succeed and triumph without first being tested.

12. We also learn that loyalty to the Truth and what is right is prioritized above any other loyalties. We cannot let our personal bonds get in the way of removing oppression and establishing what is just and right. “[Pharaoh] said, 'Did we not raise you among us as a child, and you remained among us for years of your life?'” (Al-Shu'araa: 18)

13. Admitting our mistakes and learning from them is crucial, but this should never leave us hostage to our past follies. We must have faith in our ability to grow and change, so we may move forward in life, better for what we have learned through our mistakes. “'And [then] you did your deed which you did, and you were of the ungrateful.' [Moses] said, 'I did it, then, while I was of those astray. So I fled from you when I feared you. Then my Lord granted me wisdom and prophethood and appointed me [as one] of the messengers.'” (Al-Shu'araa: 19-21)

14. We should not fall prey to propaganda and false labels and notions promoted by the media. This is a prime tactic for swaying people away from the Truth and perpetrating injustice. “[Pharaoh] said to the eminent ones around him, 'Indeed, this is a learned magician. He wants to drive you out of your land by his magic, so what do you advise?'” (Al-Shu'araa: 34-35) “[Pharaoh] said, 'Indeed, your “messenger” who has been sent to you is mad.'” (Al-Shu'araa:27) “And Pharaoh said, 'Let me kill Moses and let him call upon his Lord. Indeed, I fear that he will change your religion or that he will cause corruption in the land.'” (Ghafir:26)

15. The story behind 'Ashuraa teaches activists and educators and all those working for positive change to work together and complement one another's efforts with their personal strengths. “'And appoint for me a minister from my family – Aaron, my brother. Increase through him my strength, and let him share my task.'” (TaHa: 29-32)

16. The Day of 'Ashuraa also reminds us that regardless of how tyrannical or oppressive a criminal is, calling them to Allah requires wisdom and gentleness. “And speak to him with gentle speech that perhaps he may be reminded or fear [Allah ].” [TaHa: 44) It has been narrated from Ibn 'Abbas that he said: Were Fir'awn himself to say, “God bless you,” to me, I would have replied, “And to you as well.” (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad)

17. 'Ashuraa reminds us of how some nations have changed the rites of their religions and turned it into nothing but celebrations and ceremonies. Instead of following religious guidance in their daily lives through servitude to Allah (swt), many of Bani Isra'il and sadly, many Muslims as well, view their religiosity as participating in celebrations and ceremonies marking religious events. Instead of playing and amusing ourselves in celebration, the way we are to commemorate this historic event is by performing an act of worship in gratitude, i.e. fasting.

18. The Day of 'Ashuraa reminds us to be open to people of other cultures and religions, to benefit from them in areas that do not contradict our own religion, and to dialogue and cooperate with them in our shared interests in the betterment of humanity.
19. The Day of 'Ashuraa teaches us to establish our uniqueness as a religious identity. The Prophet (s) said, “If I live until the next year, I will surely fast the ninth day (too).”

20. Gratitude and thankfulness are not only expressed through words and emotions, but through faith and action as well. For this reason, we fast as manifestation of our thankfulness for this blessing.

21. We learn the status of fasting as an act of worship from 'Ashuraa. Noble acts are prescribed in noble times, such as this day.
22. This day reminds us of how believers feel genuine joy for others when oppression is lifted from them. It teaches us to have empathy and care for the oppressed around the world, cheering them on and helping them to become free from the oppressions they face.

These are some reflections that came to mind regarding this great day. I pray that Allah gives victory to all those who are oppressed worldwide, and may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon His final messenger, Muhammad, and his family.

Beyond Party Lines: A Call for Moral Voting

altmuslim - 11 October, 2016 - 19:08
By Saud Inam We’re experiencing what many would call one of the ugliest and most frustrating presidential campaign in recent US history. Regardless of party affiliation or what we may think of either candidate in the presidential election this much is clear: America is at a crossroads. Not to sound alarmist, but the very fate [Read More...]

Scholars, Speakers And the Culture of “Edu-Tainment” Part 1

Muslim Matters - 11 October, 2016 - 09:49

How do we distinguish a scholar from a da'i, motivational speaker or 'knowledgeable brother or sister'? What are the proper qualifications for true scholarship? How serious a sin is giving fatwas and religious rulings without appropriate knowledge? What dangers are there in the Islamic 'edu-tainment' and 'celebrity' culture we are now in, especially where poorly qualified (or even unqualified) speakers take to social media to promote themselves and attempt to impart religious instruction? Given how the line has been blurred between qualified scholars and charismatic speakers; and given the confusion that currently surround these matters, I hope the following post will shed some much needed light on the topic.1

A good a place as any to start is a reminder about the seriousness of the matter, which can be gleaned from the following verse, hadiths and salaf-reports:

The Qur'an insists: And utter not lies in what your tongues allege [saying]: 'This is lawful, and this is forbidden,' so as to forge a lie against Allah. Those who forge lies against Allah will never prosper. [16:116]

The Prophet ﷺ stated: 'Allah does not take away knowledge by wresting it from the hearts of men; rather He takes knowledge away by taking away the scholars. So when no scholar remains, people take the ignorant as leaders who, when asked, give fatwas without knowledge: they are misguided and misguiding.'2

The Prophet ﷺ said: 'Whoever interprets the Qur'an according to his own opinion, let him take his seat in the Fire of Hell.'3

Similar to it is his ﷺ warning: 'Whoever gives a fatwa without knowledge, shall bear the sin of those he gave it to.'4

Ibn Ma'sud, one of the top-tier scholars among the sahabah, said: 'You are in a time in which its scholars ('ulema) are many and its speakers (khutaba) are few. But after you will come a time in which its scholars are few and its speakers many.'5

Imam Malik remarked: 'Whoever is asked about a religious matter, before responding he should imagine both Heaven and Hell before him and consider his outcome in the Hereafter. Only then should he respond.'6

Imam Malik was once asked a religious question, to which he replied: 'I do not know.' It was then said to him: 'But the issue is a light and easy one.' At this he became angry, then said: 'There is nothing about knowledge that is light. Haven't you heard Allah's words: We will soon cast upon you a weighty word. [73:6] Knowledge, all of it is weighty; especially what one will be questioned about on the Day of Judgement.'7

The above examples should suffice as a rejoinder for those in whose hearts faith and the fear of God still flicker.

Since the idea of “being qualified” or “proper qualification” lies at the very heart of the matter, let's look at the levels of the scholars/muftis, along with their qualifications, as per a classical, authoritative categorisation:

The genre of literature referred to as Adab al-Mufti wa'l-Mustafti – “Conduct of Muftis and of Fatwa-Seekers” – lists the required credentials in terms of being 'alim bi ahkam al-shar'iyyah, “highly versed in the rulings of the Sacred Law.”8 This requires muftis to possess thorough knowledge of: [i] The five-hundred or so legal verses in the Qur'an.[ii] Those hadiths that relate to legal issues, along with knowing how to evaluate their soundness; or to at least rely upon the experts in this field. [iii] Those cases and issues which have become subject to a scholarly consensus (ijmå'), so as not to contradict it.[iv] Rules and principles of abrogation, so as not to rule on the basis of an abrogated verse or hadith. [v] Classical Quranic Arabic language, in order to understand literal and metaphorical usage; general and particular discourse; idioms; and also equivocal and unequivocal speech. [vi] Methods of analogical deduction (qiyas) and procedures of inferential reasoning (istinbat).

The legal literature also states that the term mufti is synonymous with mujtahid – one capable of ijtihad: i.e. of extracting and inferring rulings directly from the texts of the Qur'an or the Sunnah. A mufti who has gained complete mastery in the above-listed qualifications is called an absolute mujtahid (mujtahid mutlaq). The mufti or muftiyah who gains expertise, but not complete mastery, in these ijtihad credentials is a mujtahid(a) bound by the legal framework of a law-school (mujtahid fi'l-madhhab). In both cases, these two mujtahids work with the foundational texts: the first does so unrestrictedly and directly; the second  one, according to the methodological principles of his law-school or madhhab.

Below these two are muftis who are “non-mujtahids.” They too are of varying ranks. There is the mufti who, although not capable of ijtihad, is highly versed in his school's modes of legal reasoning and analogy; has committed to memory its rulings; and is able to defend, refine and resolve ambiguous cases – tilting the scales in favour of one of two or more opinions on the matter. He can even infer rulings for new cases based on established precedents of the school. Then there are muftis who are trained jurists, but their skills are limited to distinguishing between the authoritative (mu'tamad) and less authoritative positions of their school, as well as memorising its issues (masa'il), or positive law.

Finally comes the mufti  or muftiyah who is a simply trained jurist and is unable to grasp complex legal talk. What he or she does have going for them, though, is a competency to transmit the authoritative rulings of the school on any or most given issues, with reliable accuracy. His level is ifta' bi'l-hifz – “issuing fatwa by having carefully and diligently memorised the school's legal rulings.” In the absence of other types of muftis, lay people and other non-muftis are obliged to ask such trained transmitters of law and legal rulings.9

Before soldiering on, a few remarks are in order:

Firstly, barring the last type of mufti, all the others engage in highly complex modes of legal reasoning and juristic activity.

Secondly, in our times, when we say that so-and-so is a mufti, we don't mean that he is a mujtahid, but rather that he gives fatwas based on the books and rulings of his law school, or upon the ijtihad of a mujtahid he is following in the issue. That is, muftis of today do not infer legal rulings directly from the root sources.

Thirdly, although in Islam's earlier period muftis were invariably mujtahids, the term was widened at some point to include non-mujtahid jurists too, out of a pressing need or hajah.10

Fourthly, even muftis at the bottom of the legal pecking order are thoroughly trained in religious rulings. Taking religious instruction from such muftis is to access reliable, orthodox knowledge. No such guarantee exists with a charismatic speaker or da'i. In fact, it may very well be the case, as per the first hadith, of people taking 'the ignorant as leaders who, when asked, give fatwas without knowledge: they are misguided and misguiding.' Sometimes, due to defective intentions or playing fast and loose with the religion, the “misguided and misguiding” – the dall mudill – are actually deserving of one another! And we seek refuge in Allah from this.

Fifthly, this categorisation helped people to recognise their own levels and boundaries, unlike today's ego-driven, level-less learning, where anyone who acquires even a few crumbs of knowledge feels emboldened to give fatwas and religious instruction.

Finally, in terms of the levels of muftiship today, most muftis fall into the last category; some in the two levels above; fewer in the mujtahid level (either mujtahid in specific areas of the law, like marriage, divorce, inheritance, or finance; or the rarer mujtahid fi'l-madhhab). As for the absolute mujtahid, this cadre of muftis has been absent from the ummah for a very long time now.

Even with just a casual grasp of the above levels, the distinction between the qualified scholar or mufti, and between a motivational speaker/da'i will be clear. The former are qualified; the latter more often than not lack legal qualifications and fiqh schooling. Fatwa and religious instruction is sought from the former, not the latter. In fact, the latter are themselves in need of the former. As for the vague, new-fangled category of the “knowledgeable brother,” it would be best if we stopped using such a meaningless classification. For one's knowledge either qualifies her or him to give religious rulings and fatwas, or it doesn't. One is either followed in knowledge, or else one follows and imitates qualified scholarship; and in both there is goodness. Moreover, even if one has studied aspects of Islam with qualified teachers – Arabic grammar, tajwid, general Islamic studies, etc. – this does not mean that one is capable of giving fatwas or legal rulings: not unless one has been schooled in fiqh and authorised in it. Yet this simple piece of common sense is lost on so many in our time; including some graduates and drop-outs of Islamic universities.

On the topic of the 'wannabe' shaykh, the great polymath, Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi said: 'There is nothing more harmful to knowledge and its people than those who enter into it, yet are not from it. They are ignorant, but think they are knowledgeable; they cause corruption while they think they are rectifying matters.'11

In the first part of this article we trekked through some basic foundations concerning what depth of learning is required for true Islamic scholarship, as well as the levels of scholarship. We encountered some proof-texts that showed how odious and sinful it is to speak about the religion without due knowledge. In fact, imam Ibn Taymiyyah went so far as to declare: 'Whosoever speaks about the religion without knowledge is a liar, even if he didn't intend to lie!'12 We then began to broach the topic about the difference between the qualified, seasoned scholar and between the charismatic, yet unqualified speakers either doing the rounds on the conventional speakers' circuit, or flaunting their stuff on social media. But it's a topic we'll explore further in Part Two, when we look at the current Islamic “edu-tainment” culture, in light of the teachings from our scholars, sages and salaf.

Islam encourages, even obliges Muslims to grow in Islamic knowledge – knowledge of Allah; His religion; and its rulings. 'Whoever traverses a path in search of knowledge, Allah will make easy for him a path to Paradise,' is what our Prophet ﷺ said.13 There is also this hadith: 'Whoever sets out to seek knowledge, is in the path of Allah until he returns.'14 That being the case, we ought to keep in mind the Arabic proverb: raha 'ala hisan raja'a 'ala baghl – 'He set out on a steed and returned on a mule.' Setting out to seek sacred knowledge so as to grow in divine obedience is one of the noblest acts of the din. But we should always remember our level and never pretend to be at a level we are not at. To do so would be to return from seeking knowledge dishonoured and disgraced in Allah's sight.

1. I'd like to thank Ustadha Zaynab Ansari for her: Blurred Lines, and Mobeen Vaid's Mass Marketing Islam and “Edu-tainment” for helping to kick-start the much needed conversation. Vaid's piece was the first time that I happened upon “edu-tainment” (an amalgam of the words education and entertainment) to describe the growing trend of conveying Islamic teachings and instruction. As for the Ustadha's article, although its focus is different to this article, it nonetheless raises many concerns about the current speakers' circuit and its impact upon Muslim community growth.

2. Bukhari, no.34; Muslim, no.2673.

3. Al-Tirmidhi, no.2950, where he said: 'The hadith is hasan.'

4. Abu Dawud, no.3657; Ibn Majah, no.53. It was graded as hasan by al-Albani, Sahih al-Jami' al-Saghir (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islami, 1986), no.6068

5. Al-Tabarani, Mu'jam al-Kabir, no.8066; Abu Khaythamah, al-'Ilm, 109. Its chain was graded as sahih in Ibn Hajr al-'Asqalani, Fath al-Bari (Egypt: al-Matba'ah al-Salafiyyah, n.d.), 10:510.

6.  Cited in Qadi 'Iyad, Tartib al-Mudarik (Saudi Arabia: Wizarat al-Awqaf wa'l-Shu'un  al–Islamiyyah, 1983), 1:144.

7. ibid., 1:147-48.

8. Cf. al-Khatib, al-Faqih wa'l-Mutafaqqih (Riyadh: Dar al-Ifta, 1968), 2:330-31; Nawawi,al-Majmu' (Beirut: Dar Ihya Turath al-'Arabi, 1996)1:72-96; Ibn al-Qayyim, I'lam al-Muwaqqi'in (Riyadh: Dar Ibn al-Jawziyyah, 2003), 6:40-208.

9. See: Ibn al-Qayyim, I'lam al-Muwaqqi'in, 6:125-28; Ibn al-salah, Adab al-Mufti wa'l-Mustafti (Beirut: Dar 'Alam al-Kutub, 1986), 87-102.

10. See: I'lam al-Muwaqqi'in, 2:86.

11. Ibn Hazm, al-Akhlaq wa'l-Siyar (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyyah, 1985), 24.

12. Majmu' Fatawa (Riyadh: Dar 'Alam al-Kutub, 1991), 10:449.

13. Muslim, no.2699.

14. Al-Tirmidhi, no.2649, who said: A hasan hadith.'

We are Strongest When We Refuse to be Divided

altmuslim - 7 October, 2016 - 18:34
By Asma Uddin and Rabbi Jack Moline What is the purpose of terror attacks against civilians, like what we saw recently in New York, Minnesota and New Jersey? They don’t just aim to harm innocent life, they also aim to inflict spiritual harm against our nation as a whole. They seek to weaken us, provoke [Read More...]


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