Sayyidah Fatimah Az-Zhara relates:

June 18th, 2010 1 comment

Fatimah Az-zahra’(daughter of the prophet s.a.w ) said:

“One night the prophet came to me and said,
“Oh Fatimah, do not sleep before you have completed the four tasks:

1. To finish reciting the whole Al-Quran
2. Have the prophets to intercede for you in the Hereafter
3. Have all the believers to be pleased with you
4. Perform your hajj and ‘umrah”

I (Fatimah Az-zahra’) then said to Rasulullah s.a.w, “Oh Rasulullah, you ask me to perform tasks, but which I would not be able to accomplish!”

Rasulullah s.a.w smiled and said:

1. If you recite Surah Al-Ikhlas(3 times), it’s as though you have completed the whole Qu’ran.
2. If you say salawat upon me and upon all the other prophets, we will intercede for you on the Day of Judgement.
3. If you ask for forgiveness for the believers, they will be pleased with you.
4. And if you read “subhaanAllah, walHamdulillah, walaa-ilaha- illallah,-wallaahu akbar”, it’s as if you have performed your hajj and umrah.”

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June 17th, 2010 2 comments
excerpt from
Book on theEtiquette of Marriage

Being the Second Book of the Section on Customs in the Book
The Revival of the Religious Sciences By ABU HAMID AL-GHAZALI


There are eight qualities which render a conjugal life happy and which must be sought in the woman in order to assure the perpetuity of the marriage: piety, good character, beauty, a small dowry, ability to bear children, virginity, [good] lineage, and she should not be a close relative.


That she should be virtuous and religious is the most fundamental requisite, and to that end [special] care must be taken. For, if her religious principles are too weak to give her the strength to be virtuous and constant, she will humiliate her husband, disgrace him among people, trouble his heart with jealousy, and thereby render his life miserable. Should he succumb to passion and jealousy, he would remain in trial and tribulation. Should he, on the other hand, follow the path of permissiveness, he would be apathetic toward his religion and honor and would be guilty of lacking zeal and pride. Also, if she is beautiful but corrupt, she will be the cause of greater tribulation; for then it becomes difficult for the husband to separate from her: Thus he is neither able to renounce her nor to endure her. His position is like that of one who came to the Prophet (s.a.w) and said, “0 Messenger of God, I have a wife who cannot turn back a touching hand.” The Prophet said, “Divorce her”; to which he replied, “I love her.” The Prophet responded, “Then, keep her.”“ The Prophet commanded him to hold onto her, for if he divorces her he would yearn for her and become corrupt like her. Seeing that the man’s heart was in anguish, he [the Prophet] considered it preferable for him to continue his mar riage and thus safeguard himself against corruption. If her faith be corrupted in squandering his possessions or in some other respect, he will remain in misery. [However,] if he remains silent and does not denounce [her deeds], he becomes a partaker of her transgression and a violator of the Almighty’s command: “Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire.” If he, on the other hand, denies and disputes [her ways],, he will be miser able throughout his life.

For that reason, the Messenger* of God took pains in encouraging people to adhere to the faith saying, “A woman may be married either for her possessions, her beauty, her reputation, or her religion; for if you do marry other than a religious woman, may your hands be rubbed with dirt [taribat yadak].” Another hadith states: “He who marries a woman for her possessions and beauty loses both her beauty and her possessions; [but] he who marries her for the sake of her faith will be blessed by God with her possessions and her beauty.”

The Prophet (s.a.w) also said, “A woman should not be married [only] for her beauty, because her beauty may destroy her; neither for her wealth, as this may make her tyrannical; [rather] marry the woman for her religious faith.”

He emphatically recommended religious faith, because such a woman would bolster up the [husband’s] faith. If she is not pious, she will be an element of distraction and of trouble in her husband’s religion.

[Good Character]

Good character is the second quality. It is an important requisite in the search for emptying the heart” and in the pur suit of favorable surroundings for religion. For if she is vicious, ill-tongued, ill-mannered, and ungrateful, more harm than good will come from her. Toleration of a woman’s tongue would try the saints. An Arab said, “Do not marry one of the following six types of women: an ‘annanah [hypochondriac], amannanah [upbraider], a hannanah [yearner], a hiddaqah [coveter], a barraqah (narcissist), or a shaddaqah [prattler].

The ‘annanah is one who excessively moans, complains, and [always] wraps her head.Marrying a constantly ill [woman] or one who feigns illness is of no avail.

The mannanah is one who is constantly needling her husband by saying, “I did such and such for you.”

The hannanah is one who yearns after a previous husband or after her offspring from some other husband. This, too, is among the things to be avoided.

The hiddaqah is one who looks at everything, covets it, and forces her husband to buy it.

The barraqah can be one of two:
(a) one who spends the whole day fixing her face or making it up and beautifying it in order to give it a lustre, or
(b) one who becomes angry at mealtime, thus eating only by herself and singling out her share from everything.
A Yemeni expression which is appropriately used for a woman, or a child, who is not satisfied with the food given to her [or him], is Baraqat al-mar ‘atu wa baraqa’l-sabiyyu al-ta’ama, that is, to become angry at meal time.

Al-shaddaqah is one who prattles a great deal; in this context the Prophet (s.a.w) said, “Almighty God detests the loudmouthed prattler. “25

It is related that the Azdi the traveler,” during his journey, met Elias* [the prophet] who ordered him to get married and discouraged him from celibacy.

He then said, “Don’t marry any of the following four types:amukhlali’ah [divorce-minded], a muba riyah [boaster], an ‘ahirah [harlot], or a nashiz [conceited].”

Al-mukhlali’ah is one who asks for the divorce (khul) every hour for no reason;
In Islamic law, a compensation (khutah) must be paid by the wife when a divorce is sought by her (Hughes, Dictionary of Islam, 274). This law is laid down in Qur’an 2:229: “And if ye fear that they may not be able to keep the limits of Allah, in that case it is no sin for either of them if the woman ransom herself.”

Al-mubariyah is one who boasts of the superiority of another and is proud of her worldly advantages,

Al ‘ahirah is a loose woman who is known to have lovers and intimate companions. To her the Almighty referred when He said, “nor of loose conduct” [Qur’an  4:25].

Al-nashiz is one who adopts a haughty attitude toward her husband in deed and word: the word nashaz designates that which is elevated above the ground.
Nashaz is the noun derived from the same root as ndshiz. In Islamic law, nushuz means “violation of marital duties on the part of either husband or wife, specifically, recalcitrance of the woman toward her husband, and brutal treatment of the wife by the husband” (Wehr, Dictionary, 966).

‘Ali (ra) used to say, “The worst characteristics of men constitute the best characteristics of women; namely, stinginess, pride, and cowardice. For if the woman is stingy, she will preserve her own and her husband’s possessions; if she is proud, she will refrain from addressing loose and improper words to everyone; and if she is cowardly, she will dread everything and will there fore not go out of her house and will avoid compromising situations for fear of her husband. These accounts indicate the sum total of the good qualities sought in marriage.


The third, beauty of face, is desired because through it fortification is attained. For [a man’s] natural disposition is generally not contented with an ugly woman, [even] when good character and physical beauty are often inseparable. What we have transmitted is encouragement to look for a pious woman and not marry one for her beauty, which does not discourage the cherishing of beauty, but rather discourages marrying a woman for her beauty alone [while she be] corrupt in religion. Beauty, per se, oftentimes makes marriage desirable and detracts from the importance of religion. Indicative of the regard given to beauty is the fact that closeness and love are often realized through it. For that reason the Shari’ah  enjoined the safeguarding of the means to intimacy, and seeing [the woman] before marriage was deemed desirable.

The Prophet said, “If God should incline the heart of one of you toward a woman, let him look at her, for it will bring them closer together.” That is to say, it will cause them to be closer to each other like the closeness of the epidermis to the endodermis, which is the inner skin [as opposed to] the epidermis [which] is the outer skin. He mentions that only to stress the degree of closeness. The
Prophet (s.a.w) said, “There is something in the eyes of the Ansar; therefore, if one of you wishes to marry one of their women, let him look at them.”  It was said [in effect] that those women were “blear-eyed.” It was also said, “small-eyed.”

Some God-fearing men would not marry off their daughters until they are seen as a precaution against delusion. Al A’mash33 said, “Every marriage occurring without looking ends in worry and sadness.” It is obvious that looking does not reveal character, religion, or wealth; rather, it distinguishes beauty from ugliness.

It was related that during the time of ‘Umar (ra) a man got married. The man had colored his hair and the dyestuff had faded. The woman’s family complained to ‘Umar saying, “We thought he was a young man.” ‘Umar beat him excessively and said, “You have deceived the people.”

It is related that Bilal and Suhayb came to a bedouin household and asked to marry their daughters. They were asked: “Who are you?” Bilal said, “I am Bilal and this is my brother, Suhayb. We were misguided, but God has directed us; we were enslaved, but God freed us; we were dependent [on others], but God has made us independent; if you should give us wives, then thanks be to God; and if you should turn us away, then praise be to God.” They [the household] answered, “Rather, you will marry, and thanks be to God.” Suhayb said to Bilal, “Would that you had mentioned our association and dealings with the Messenger(saw) of God.” He replied, “Be quiet. I spoke the truth and the truth will get you married.”

One may be deceived both in beauty and in character; therefore it is desirable to avoid deception in beauty by looking, and [deception] in character by description and inquiry. It is desir able that this precede marriage. A description of her character and beauty should not be sought from any but one who is keen, who is truthful, who is well versed in the apparent and the hidden [qualities], who is not predisposed toward her lest he should praise her too much, and who does not envy her lest he should not praise her enough. In stating the basis for marriage and in describing the would-be wives, the natural disposition leans toward exaggeration and excessiveness. Few are the ones who are truthful and are inclined to modesty; rather, deception and enticement often predominate. Caution, therefore, is im portant for one who would guard himself against longing for a woman other than his wife.

As for the man whose purpose in having a wife is mere observation of the sunna, bearing children, or caring for the house, should he renounce beauty, he would draw nearer to asceticism; because seeking beauty, in short, is a wordly interest even though in the case of some individuals [it] may be an aid to religion.

Abu Sulayman al-Darani said, “Indifference (zuhd) [to worldly interests may be] in anything, even in women.” Thus a man [might] marry an old woman because he has preferred to renounce worldly delights. Malik b. Dinar (ra) used to say, “Many a man among you would refrain from marrying an orphan, whose feeding and clothing would cost little and who would be easily satisfied, thus gaining merit [before God]. Rather, he would marry the daughter of so and so-meaning prominent people-who would make many demands of him saying, `Clothe me with such and such.’“ Ahmad b. Hanbal preferred a one- eyed [woman] over her sister who was beautiful. For he asked: “Who is the better behaved of the two?” He was told: “The one-eyed.” He replied: “Give her to me in marriage.” Such is the constant endeavor of one who does not seek [mere] sensual pleasures. If someone cannot secure his faith without a source of pleasure, then let him seek beauty because enjoyment of what is lawful strengthens faith.

It has been said that if a woman is beautiful, of good charac ter, with black eyes and hair, large eyes, white complexion, loves her husband, and has an eye to no other man, she is in the image of the houris [hawar]. For Almighty God has ascribed to the women of paradise this description in the verse, “the good and beautiful” [Qur’an  60:70] (by “good” He meant “those enjoying good manners”); in the verse “of modest gaze” [37:48]; and in the verse “lovers (‘urub), friends” [56:37]. (By “lovers,” He means someone who is in love with her husband and desirous of seducing him so as to complete her pleasure. By al-hawar, He meant whiteness; al-hawra’ is a woman with intense whiteness of the sclera, profound blackness of the eyes matching the profound blackness of the hair, and big, wide[-set] eyes.)

The Prophet (s.a.w) said, “The best of your women is one who pleases her husband when he looks at her, who obeys him when he commands her, and guards his memory and his possessions when he is absent.” Her husband will be delighted to look at her if she loves him.

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The Islanders

June 5th, 2010 No comments

By Idries shah

Once upon a time there lived an ideal community in a far-off land. Its members had no fears as we now know them. Instead of uncertainty and vacillation, they had a purposefulness and a fuller means of expressing themselves.

Although there were none of its stresses and tensions which mankind now considers essential to its progress, their lives were richer, because other, better elements replaced these things.

Theirs, therefore, was a slightly different mode of existence. We could almost say that our present perceptions are a crude, makeshift version of the real ones that this community possessed.

They had real lives, not semi-lives.

They had a leader, who discovered that their country was to become uninhabitable for a period of, shall we say, 20,000 years. He planned their escape, realizing that their descendants would be able to return home successfully, only after many trials.

He found for them a place of refuge, an island whose features were only roughly similar to those of the original homeland.

Because of the difference in climate and situation, the immigrants had to undergo a transformation.

This made them more physically and mentally adapted to the new circumstances: coarse perceptions, for instance, were substituted for finer ones, as when the manual laborer becomes toughened in response to the needs of his calling.

In order to reduce the pain which a comparison between the old and new states would bring, they were made to forget the past almost entirely.

Only the most shadowy recollection of it remained, yet it was sufficient to be awakened when the time came.

The system was very complicated, but well arranged. The organs by means of which the people survived on the island were also made the organs of enjoyment, physical and mental. The organs which were really constructive in the old homeland were placed in a special form of abeyance, and linked with the shadowy memory, in preparation for its eventual activation.

Slowly and painfully the immigrants settled down, adjusting themselves to the local conditions. The resources of the island were such that, coupled with effort and a certain form of guidance, people would be able to escape to a further island on the way back to their original home. This was the first of a succession of islands upon which gradual acclimatization took place.

The responsibility of this “evolution” was vested in those individuals who could sustain it. These were necessarily only a few, because for the mass of the people the effort of keeping both sets of knowledge in their consciousness was virtually impossible. One of them seemed to conflict with the other. Certain specialists guarded the “special science.”

This “secret,” the method of effecting the transition, was nothing more or less than the knowledge of maritime skills and their application. The escape needed an instructor, raw materials, people, effort and understanding. Given these, people could learn to swim, and also to build ships.

The people who were originally in charge of the escape operation made it clear to everyone that a certain preparation was necessary before anyone could learn to swim or even take part in building a ship. For a time the process continued satisfactorily.

Then a man who had been found, for the time being, lacking in the necessary qualities rebelled against this order and managed to develop a masterly idea. He had observed that the effort to escape placed a heavy and often seemingly unwelcome burden upon the people. At the same time they were disposed to believe things which they were told about the escape operation. He realized that he could acquire power, and also revenge himself upon those who had undervalued him, as he though, by a simple exploitation of these two sets of facts.

He would merely offer to take away the burden, by affirming that there was no burden.

He made his announcement: “There is no need for man to integrate his mind and train it in the way which has been described to you. The human mind is already a stable and continuous, consistent thing. You have been told that you have to become a craftsman in order to build a ship. I say, not only do you not need to be a craftsman – you do not need a ship at all!

“An islander needs only to observe a few simple rules to survive and remain integrated into society. By the exercise of common sense, born into everyone, he can attain anything upon this island, our home, the common property and heritage of all.”

The tonguester, having gained a great deal of interest among the people, now “proved his message by saying: “If there is any reality in ships and swimming, show us ships which have made the journey, and swimmers who have come back!”

This was a challenge to the instructors which they could not meet. It was based upon an assumption of which the bemused herd could not now see the fallacy. You see, ships never returned from the other land. Swimmers, when they did come back, had undergone a fresh adaptation which made them invisible to the crowd.

The mob pressed for demonstrative proof.

“Shipbuilding,” said the escapers, in an attempt to reason with the revolt, “is an art and a craft. The learning and the exercise of this lore depends upon special techniques. These together make up a total activity, which cannot be examined piecemeal, as you demand. This activity has an impalpable element, called ‘baraka,’ from which the work ‘barque’ – a ship – is derived. This word means ‘the Subtlety,’ and cannot be shown to you.”

“Art, craft, total, baraka, nonsense!” shouted the revolutionaries.

And so they hanged as many shipbuilding craftsmen as they could find.

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Cover Girl

June 2nd, 2010 3 comments
taken from
Krista Bremer and her daughter

Nine years ago, I danced my newborn daughter around my North Carolina living room to the music of Free to Be…You and Me, the ’70s children’s classic whose every lyric about tolerance and gender equality I had memorized as a girl growing up in California. My Libyan-born husband, Ismail, sat with her for hours on our screened porch, swaying back and forth on a creaky metal rocker and singing old Arabic folk songs, and took her to a Muslim sheikh who chanted a prayer for long life into her tiny, velvety ear. She had espresso eyes and lush black lashes like her father’s, and her milky-brown skin darkened quickly in the summer sun. We named her Aliya, which means “exalted” in Arabic, and agreed we would raise her to choose what she identified with most from our dramatically different backgrounds.

I secretly felt smug about this agreement—confident that she would favor my comfortable American lifestyle over his modest Muslim upbringing. Ismail’s parents live in a squat stone house down a winding dirt alley outside Tripoli. Its walls are bare except for passages from the Qur’an engraved onto wood, its floors empty but for thin cushions that double as bedding at night. My parents live in a sprawling home in Santa Fe with a three-car garage, hundreds of channels on the flat-screen TV, organic food in the refrigerator, and a closetful of toys for the grandchildren. I imagined Aliya embracing shopping trips to Whole Foods and the stack of presents under the Christmas tree, while still fully appreciating the melodic sound of Arabic, the honey-soaked baklava Ismail makes from scratch, the intricate henna tattoos her aunt drew on her feet when we visited Libya. Not once did I imagine her falling for the head covering worn by Muslim girls as an expression of modesty.

Last summer we were celebrating the end of Ramadan with our Muslim community at a festival in the parking lot behind our local mosque. Children bounced in inflatable fun houses while their parents sat beneath a plastic tarp nearby, shooing flies from plates of curried chicken, golden rice, and baklava.

Aliya and I wandered past rows of vendors selling prayer mats, henna tattoos, and Muslim clothing. When we reached a table displaying head coverings, Aliya turned to me and pleaded, “Please, Mom—can I have one?”

She riffled through neatly folded stacks of headscarves while the vendor, an African-American woman shrouded in black, beamed at her. I had recently seen Aliya cast admiring glances at Muslim girls her age. I quietly pitied them, covered in floor-length skirts and long sleeves on even the hottest summer days, as my best childhood memories were of my skin laid bare to the sun: feeling the grass between my toes as I ran through the sprinkler on my front lawn; wading into an icy river in Idaho, my shorts hitched up my thighs, to catch my first rainbow trout; surfing a rolling emerald wave off the coast of Hawaii. But Aliya envied these girls and had asked me to buy her clothes like theirs. And now a headscarf.

In the past, my excuse was that they were hard to find at our local mall, but here she was, offering to spend ten dollars from her own allowance to buy the forest green rayon one she clutched in her hand. I started to shake my head emphatically “no,” but caught myself, remembering my commitment to Ismail. So I gritted my teeth and bought it, assuming it would soon be forgotten.

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The Daughter of Medina

May 22nd, 2010 1 comment

by Mohsin Badat   source

Recent events and experiences have caused me to question what it means to be a child of today’s west; to look at what is truly given from on high and true to the fitra, and what is shaped by the climate we live in. The Prophet (s) once described the heart as a mirror, and like all metals mirrors are prone to rust. Unfortunately I cannot say that I am an isolated example when I say that far from having a reflective heart, the rust has indeed set in. There is a damp in the air. Living in a society that is not driven towards the Divine comes with it’s own doubts, least of all those whispering and asking whether you can know truth, whether there is a ‘right’ way, whether or not we’re all the same deep down so why bother with anything? By the grace of Allah there are those on His earth who live in a land not troubled by such problems, who breathe the air clean and free and who remain a beacon of light for those who would cast aside the internal cobwebs and begin the long journey toward Him, majestic and august is He! Such a land is Tarim, and this is where my journey begins.

Tarim, a moderately sized town home to thousands of the faithful is nestled in between the towering cliffs that bound the Hadramawt valley in the south of Yemen; old Arabia Felix. A settlement established before Islam’s rise, Tarim first enters our consciousness at the time of Hadhrat Abu Bakr’s caliphate, may Allah be pleased with him. During the so-called ridda, the wars of apostasy when the Yemenis refused to pay the zakat the city of Tarim remained true and paid in full to the Commander of the Faithful. Their reward? Allah’s pleasure and three duas from the Caliph, “Allah make plentiful it’s water, and make it cultivated till the Day of Judgement, and may the Righteous blossom in its lands as plants blossom from water”. And so to this day Tarim’s environs are lush in the midst of aridity, are teeming with the awliya, hearts attached to dhikr and full of water pure, kind to the bowels of foreign visitors wary of sickness! One of Tarim’s names is ‘The Daughter of Medina’, for reasons that make it uniquely special. This we understand from the Hadith: “Love Allah for the blessings He bestows upon you, Love me for the love of Allah and Love my House for my love” (Al-Tirmidhi). Tarim can claim to be home to those who are loyal to this Hadith every waking and sleeping moment. For the truth is that one in three of the thousands of Tarimis claim descent from al-Imam al-Muhajir Ahmad b. Isa, son of Isa, son of Muhammad an-Naqid, son of Ali Uraydi, son of Ja’far As-Sadiq, son of Muhammad al-Baqir, son of Ali Zayn al-Abideen, son of Sayyidina Hussein the Grandson, son of Sayyida Fatima az-Zahra, wife of Sayyidina Ali (may Allah be pleased with them all!) and daughter of The Messenger Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him eternally. This is the real answer to Abu Bakr’s dua – Tarim was destined by Allah’s grace to overflow with the water that emanates from the caliph’s closest friend, The Beloved of Allah Muhammad (s). 1100 years have passed since Ahmad b. Isa’s arrival and Tarim is mother to thousands of Hadhrat Ali’s descendents, the largest gathering of the Ahl al-Bayt in the world. Their grandfather (s) was al-Habib, and his (s) descendents take his name. From the 12 th century onwards the scholars and saints of Tarim became known the world over as the Habaib.

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May 21st, 2010 No comments

Once upon a time, there was a selfish man. He liked everything to be his own. He could not share his belongings with anyone, not even his friends or the poor.

One day, the man lost thirty gold coins. He went to his friend’s house and told him how he lost his gold coins. His friend was a kind man. As his friend’s daughter was coming from an errand she found thirty gold coins, when she arrived home, she told her father what she had found. The girl’s father told her that the gold coins belong to his friend and he sent for him. When the selfish man arrived, he told him how his daughter had found his thirty gold coins and handed then to him.

After counting the gold coins the man said that ten of them was missing and had been taken by the girl as he had forty gold coins. He further commented that he will recover the remaining amount from him. But the girl’s father refused. The man left the gold coins and went to the court and informed the judge there about what had taken place between him and the girl’s father.

The judge sent for the girl and her father, and when they arrived asked the girl how many gold coins did she find. She replied thirty gold coins. The Judge that asked the selfish man how many gold coins did he lose and he answered forty gold coins.

The judge then told the man that the gold coins did not belong to him because the girl found thirty and not forty as he claimed to have lost and then told the girl to take the gold coins and that if anybodyis looking for them he will send for the girl.

The judge told the man that if anybody reports that they have found forty gold coins he will sendfor him. It was then that the man confessed that he lied and that he lost thirty gold coins but the judge did not listen to him.

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The Chicken

April 22nd, 2010 No comments

There was a woman who had a hen and she did not have anything else other than this hen. She lived on the eggs laid by the hen. One day a thief stole it.

The woman did not imprecate him and she sought refuge and help from Allāh.

The thief slaughtered the hen and began to pluck the feathers, when suddenly all these feathers grew upon his face. He tried hard to have them removed but nobody could help him get rid of the plumes.

Finally, he went to an ascetic of Banu Isrāyīl who said: ‘I don’t know of any cure for your malady except if the woman you stole from invokes evil upon you.’

The thief sent someone to the woman who began by asking: ‘Where is your hen?’

She replied: ‘It was stolen.’

The man said: ‘Whoever stole it has caused you deep grievance.’

She said: ‘Well, it is so..’

The agent kept asking her and provoking her until she lost her temper and cursed the thief for stealing her hen.

Immediately, feathers fell off the thief’s face and people came to the ascetic asking how did he know about this.

The ascetic said: ‘When her hen was stolen, she did not imprecate him and left the matter to Allāh táālā; so He avenged her. But when she imprecated him, she sought revenge for her own self and so the feathers fell [and the punishment and revenge of Allāh ceased].’

Laţāyif al-Minan, Ibn Áţā-Allāh as-Sakandari

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We have little to fear but ignorance

April 20th, 2010 2 comments

April 19, 2010
BY NEIL STEINBERG Sun-Times Columnist

Fear is the emotion underlying everything. A primary instinct we share with animals — I pad outside to retrieve the morning newspapers and catch a bunny unaware. He freezes, tracking me anxiously, then rockets away, his little heart hammering. I pick up the papers, smiling, because of course I mean him no harm.
For a bunny, there is no downside to automatically fleeing humans — much unnecessary leaping, perhaps. It is a survival mechanism, but so is my not being afraid of what doesn’t pose a threat, the skill that allowed humans to slowly develop beyond isolated tribes, to work together and build this complex world of wonder we now enjoy. There are no wonders of the rabbit world besides underground burrows. But that’s it.

My wife and I attended the 6th annual fund-raising dinner earlier this month for the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a group dedicated to thwarting the baseless fear that so rattled my rabbit friend. “I’m going to wear the long dress I wear to Hassidic weddings,” my wife said beforehand, without irony. I said that sounded like a good idea.

Some 1,500 guests attended the CAIR dinner, at the Drury Lane in Oak Brook. An older gentleman named Feteh Riyal — a muezzin — gave the call to prayer, eyes closed, hands pressed flat against the sides of his face, emitting long, plaintive tones I had never heard before. They were haunting, beautiful. The keynote speaker was Professor Tariq Ramadan, who had been banned from the United States for six years under George W. Bush’s security state.

I brought along a tape recorder “in case he said anything incendiary.” But the speech centered on the moral duties of a Muslim to be an active part of the community and do good works. That didn’t seem like news.

To me, the most noteworthy moment came before the doors were opened. A hundred people were waiting — men in suits, women in headscarves. Three couples walked up — college boys in dark suits and their dates in tiny black dresses. The girls looked almost naked among the colorful veils and modest leggings.

“I knew Islam was a big tent,” I whispered to my wife. “But I didn’t think it was THAT big a tent.”

Turns out the college couples were there for a Sigma Chi dance in the next ballroom. It’s funny how the power of a majority works, because the Sigma Chi couples were suddenly the ones out of place, swimming against the cultural mainstream, and for the first time I grasped the perspective of women who dress in the modest Islamic manner and maintain that it is themselves who are the liberated ones.

But that was subtle and not something I felt obligated to pass along to you. The next day, I began reading my e-mail, as I always do. But now the usual garbage seemed different, worse.

The e-mail was headed “Muslim Belief” and began, “This is a true story and the author, Rick Mathes, is a well-known leader in prison ministry.”

It describes how Mathes attended a training session at a state prison. A Muslim cleric outlines his beliefs, and Mathes challenges him. Isn’t it true that “most Imams and clerics of Islam have declared a Holy war against the infidels of the world”?

The imam admits it is.

“Let me make sure I have this straight,” Mathes continues. “All followers of Allah have been commanded to kill everyone who is not of your faith so they can have a place in heaven. Is that correct?”

“He sheepishly replied, ‘Yes.’ ”

The story stank of fabrication, and a check of the debunking sign shows it’s pure falsity — the only true part is that Mathes wrote it.

It’s a lie. No such exchange took place. Yet the story has been circulating widely on the Internet for seven years.

Tariq Ramadan spoke for 45 minutes and said, basically, that being a good Muslim means living in harmony with your neighbors and in doing good.

“Spread peace,” he said. “You are a people of peace. People of peace are going to face rejection and war, but this is not our objective. Our objective is peace. Any Muslim who tells you [that] you cannot love your neighbor, you have to say, ‘You need to have a better understanding of Islam.’ We are people who are spreading around a dignified way of life. . . . You are at home in this country. This is your home. The American people are your people. And anyone in a mosque who speaks of Americans as ‘them’ and not ‘us’ is the starting point of a problem.”

Why do Westerners succumb to anti-Muslim fear? It’s a natural reflex — certainly what terrorists expect when they claim their acts are in the name of Islam. They want to drive a wedge between the cultures, lest a harmonious blending undercut their extremism and deprive them of the enemy they crave. It’s a partnership, the terrorists and the fear-mongers, working in harmony and tacit agreement.

Actually, fear isn’t the underlying instinct. Ignorance is. Fear is often ignorance in action. Rabbits are not smart animals, and so quick reflexes pass for philosophy. We humans are supposed to be brighter than that. I only wish you could have gone to the CAIR dinner with me and seen — no offense — the parade of unremarkable American normality that I saw; pleasant, concerned, decent people sharing a meal, albeit with a few more veils and skullcaps than are considered usual here at the moment. It will become much more common, and if that frightens you, you are being startled for no reason.

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A Woman’s Reflection on Leading Prayer

April 18th, 2010 No comments

by Yasmin Mogahed

On March 18, 2005, Amina Wadud led the first female-led jum`ah (Friday) prayer. On that day, women took a huge step towards being more like men. But did we come closer to actualizing our God-given liberation?

I don’t think so.

What we so often forget is that God has honored the woman by giving her value in relation to God—not in relation to men. But as Western feminism erases God from the scene, there is no standard left—except men. As a result, the Western feminist is forced to find her value in relation to a man. And in so doing, she has accepted a faulty assumption. She has accepted that man is the standard, and thus a woman can never be a full human being until she becomes just like a man.

When a man cut his hair short, she wanted to cut her hair short. When a man joined the army, she wanted to join the army. She wanted these things for no other reason than because the “standard” had it.

What she didn’t recognize was that God dignifies both men and women in their distinctiveness – not their sameness. And on March 18, Muslim women made the very same mistake.

For 1400 years there has been a consensus of the scholars that men are to lead prayer. As a Muslim woman, why does this matter? The one who leads prayer is not spiritually superior in any way. Something is not better just because a man does it. And leading prayer is not better, just because it’s leading. Had it been the role of women or had it been more divine, why wouldn’t the Prophet ﷺ have asked Ayesha or Khadija, or Fatima—the greatest women of all time—to lead? These women were promised heaven—and yet they never led prayer.

But now, for the first time in 1400 years, we look at a man leading prayer and we think, “That’s not fair.” We think so although God has given no special privilege to the one who leads. The imam is no higher in the eyes of God than the one who prays behind.

On the other hand, only a woman can be a mother. And God has given special privilege to a mother. The Prophet ﷺ taught us that heaven lies at the feet of mothers. But no matter what a man does he can never be a mother. So why is that not unfair?

When asked, “Who is most deserving of our kind treatment?” the Prophet ﷺ replied, “Your mother” three times before saying “your father” only once. Is that sexist? No matter what a man does he will never be able to have the status of a mother.
And yet, even when God honors us with something uniquely feminine, we are too busy trying to find our worth in reference to men to value it—or even notice. We, too, have accepted men as the standard; so anything uniquely feminine is, by definition, inferior. Being sensitive is an insult, becoming a mother—a degradation. In the battle between stoic rationality (considered masculine) and selfless compassion (considered feminine), rationality reigns supreme.

As soon as we accept that everything a man has and does is better, all that follows is a knee-jerk reaction: if men have it, we want it too. If men pray in the front rows, we assume this is better, so we want to pray in the front rows too. If men lead prayer, we assume the imam is closer to God, so we want to lead prayer too. Somewhere along the line we’ve accepted the notion that having a position of worldly leadership is some indication of one’s position with God.

A Muslim woman does not need to degrade herself in this way. She has God as a standard. She has God to give her value; she doesn’t need a man.

In fact, in our crusade to follow men, we as women never even stopped to examine the possibility that what we have is better for us. In some cases we even gave up what was higher only to be like men.

Fifty years ago, society told us that men were superior because they left the home to work in factories. We were mothers. And yet, we were told that it was women’s liberation to abandon the raising of another human being in order to work on a machine. We accepted that working in a factory was superior to raising the foundation of society—just because a man did it.

Then, after working, we were expected to be superhuman—the perfect mother, the perfect wife, the perfect homemaker—and have the perfect career. And while there is nothing wrong, by definition, with a woman having a career, we soon came to realize what we had sacrificed by blindly mimicking men. We watched as our children became strangers and soon recognized the privilege we’d given up.

And so only now—given the choice—women in the West are choosing to stay home to raise their children. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, only 31 percent of mothers with babies, and 18 percent of mothers with two or more children, are working full-time. And of those working mothers, a survey conducted by Parenting Magazine in 2000, found that 93% of them say they would rather be at home with their kids, but are compelled to work due to ‘financial obligations.’ These ‘obligations’ are imposed on women by the gender sameness of the modern West, and removed from women by the gender distinctiveness of Islam.

It took women in the West almost a century of experimentation to realize a privilege given to Muslim women 1400 years ago.

Given my privilege as a woman, I only degrade myself by trying to be something I’m not – and in all honesty – don’t want to be: a man. As women, we will never reach true liberation until we stop trying to mimic men, and value the beauty in our own God-given distinctiveness.

If given a choice between stoic justice and compassion, I choose compassion. And if given a choice between worldly leadership and heaven at my feet—I choose heaven.

taken from

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Miracle of Kaaba

March 27th, 2010 No comments
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