In the Name of Almighty God, The Merciful, The Compassionate

بسم لله الرحمان الرحيم

Salaam Aleikum (Peace be with you)! I hope you may gain some insight from my work here. Remember, I'm not a scholar and don't claim to be. I only claim to be a person who has a passion for both Islam and this great republic in which I live and wish to share my thoughts with others. Remember that anything good you find in this blog is from Allah, and anything wrong or bad is from my own flawed self.

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The Holy Ka'aba

The Holy Ka'aba
The House of God built by Abraham (peace be upon him)

The Pledge of Allegiance

The Pledge of Allegiance
take out the 9th line, and it would be haram (forbidden) to say this.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Day Terror...

On Christmas day, December 25th, I was actually in Chicago doing a gig with Native Deen. We were in a room in the hotel where the gig was at and I noticed the TV was turned to CNN. I was shocked when I read the headline said something like, "attempted terror attack aboard US airline". To be honest my first thought was, "just what we need, another moron with a Muslim name doing some b.s. like this". Then my next thought was, "well this is going to make it a living hell getting back to Ohio the next day".

This incident saddens me as a Muslim, as an American, and as an American Muslim. Without doubt many Muslims will complain about being "randomly" screened at airports. Particularly those who "look the part". As I was flying back from Chicago to Ohio the other day I saw a Muslim sister with her little girl (probably 1-2 years old) being patted down and having the hand-held metal detector run over them. The little girl kept trying to grab the metal detector. I think that's sad but then again what are TSA personnel supposed to do? Screening scary looking Arab guys wearing turbans and long robes wouldn't make sense because what terrorist in their right mind would go to the airport looking like that? It would be logical to assume that actual terrorists probably would not be looking "the part", and actual Al Qaeda terrorist have demonstrated that they really don't have any regard for the lives of women or children. For them life is expendable if destroying it accomplishes there goals, which they see as the will of God. That's the problem with religious fanaticism. When people think they are doing the will of God, they may be capable of doing things they would normally never do, even though every major religion including Islam absolutely forbids the killing of innocents (especially children) and the killing of one's self.

As the details of this story trickle in we find that this event should have been prevented. The man's own father turned him in to American authorities as a possible threat. His name was on a list of people with possible ties to dangerous people, and from what I understand he bought his ticket with cash and had no checked luggage, despite the fact that he said he was staying in the States for 2 weeks. There were definitely a lot of red flags here. The bottom line is that this shows that the system really isn't working. All the talk about being tougher on would-be terrorists seems more increasingly more and more about scoring political points then actually protecting the American people. After all we've gone to war in two different countries, haven't caught Osama bin Laden despite knowing the general area where he is (and we could find Saddam Hussein in a hole), and we've just had what could have been another 9/11 on our hands. Where was Barack Obama? He was in Hawaii on vacation. Granted he knew that the man had been caught and his plan thwarted, but what if there had been others on other planes? I was not impressed with the President's response to the situation.

In general American authorities need to be more efficient in detecting threats, and that doesn't mean screening everyone that looks Arab or has a name like Muhammad or Ahmed or Hussein. It means having better intelligence and being better at sharing information with relevant agencies. Also, it means addressing the source of the threat which is Al Qaeda leadership currently residing in Afghanistan and Pakistan, AND responsibly ending the war in Iraq which has just become a place for Al Qaeda foot soldiers to "practice" killing Americans.

Also, we, the American Muslim community need to work harder at pressuring governments in Muslim countries to address the threat of people like Al Qaeda, and we need to do more in our country to assist authorities in recognizing legitimate threats. There have been stories of Muslim communities lashing out at the FBI for using informants in mosques. Now first of all I don't agree with the FBI using informants in mosques unless there are clear, well documented threats coming from within them. However, we Muslims need to be more open for FBI and other authorities coming into our mosques. After all what do we have to hide? Once I stopped at the Islamic Center of Toledo, which is a huge mosque that you get a great view of if your travelling north on I-75 to Toledo, there was a sign that said "visitation by appointment only". I thought to myself "wow that's really sad". What does that say to people who might see the mosque and say "you know what I'd like to learn more about Islam, I think I'll stop there". After all churches and synagogues don't ask questions about people who come during services. I guarantee that any Muslim wearing a thobe and imama could go to any church on Sunday and not be asked why they're there or to make an appointment for a visit. The problem is that Muslims are under the impression (and often it is a severe over-reaction) that they have to walk on egg shells and at any moment the FBI could come and take them and lock them up forever. Truth be told they learn these fears from the secret police in their own countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, and others because they DO do that. Muslims here in the US need to realize that unlike those countries and unlike the European countries, that they have rights and are protected under the law, even when they have done something wrong. The FBI is not above the law. The President isn't even above the law.
Bottom line....I'm just glad no one was hurt on that flight, and we need to do better, as Americans, and as Muslims.

...And Allah Knows Best...

The Day of Ashurah: A day to Remember

In the name of Almighty God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. This past Sunday was the tenth day of the month of Muharram, which is for us Muslims, the holy day of Ashurah. The word "Ashurah" actually just means "ten" as it is the tenth day of the month, but the day had special significance for people who lived alongside the prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.
When the prophet and his people made the Hijra, or the migration from Mecca to Yathrib (soon to be known as Medina), they found that the Jewish community in Yathrib commemorated the Exodus on this day. The Exodus for those who don't know was the freeing of Moses (peace be upon him) and the people of Israel from the bondage of Pharoah. The prophet Muhammad in seeing this said somewhat jokingly to the Jewish community "we have more right to Moses than you" (Bukhari, 1865). So, the prophet ordered the Muslims to also observe fasting on this day to remember the Exodus event. Later on when fasting during the month of Ramadan became obligatory on Muslims, fasting on Ashurah became optional.

Fasting on this day is an important source of blessing from Allah, as well as an important way of remembering one His greatest prophets, Moses (peace and blessings be upon him). It is also a day to remember our connection to our Jewish "cousins" in faith. In terms of law and lifestyle we have much more in common with the Jewish community than we do with the Christian community. Yet despite that there is so much animosity between us. People may think that this is an ancient rivalry and it's true there have been a few incidents throughout history. During the time of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) there were some Jews who betrayed their agreement with the Prophet and thus were excommunicated and some cases executed as traitors by the Muslims. This was due to the fact that they had made bay'ah or a pledge to Muhammed to obey the laws of the Constitution of Medina (which you can find readily available online). This constitution gave the Jews of Medina equal rights under the law as it did to Muslims and to all who make a pledge to it and agree to help and protect other tribes who also made the pledge to it. Some of these Jews became traitors by assisting and allying with the Quraysh who were at war with the Muslims and other people of Medina.
Despite this, Jews and Muslims have historically got along. In Jerusalem, before Muslim rule there (under Christian rule) Jews were actually exiled from the city and banned from worshipping at the Wailing Wall (remnant of the old temple of Solomon peace be upon him). When Omar ibn Khattab, companion of the prophet Muhammad, rode into Jerusalem as it's new ruler, he respected Christian and Jewish places of worship and re-allowed Jews to live and worship in the city. Generally speaking Jews and Muslims were "on the same side" throughout most of history from that point on, both of which being constant targets of Christian persecution. Muslim, Jewish and Christian scientists and scholars studied and researched alongside each other in Baghdad and Cordoba, and in some cases houses of worship were used for all three religious traditions. It has only been in recent history, as in the past 60 years or so, that there has been significant tension between Muslim and Jewish people due to the founding and expansion of the state of Israel and the subsequent persecution of Palestinians.

Also the day of Ashurah has significance for Shia Muslims in that it is a day when they remember the death of Imam Hussein. Hussein was the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and is revered by all Muslims as a great leader of the Muslims and revered by the Shia as one of their twelve Imams. Because of this, Ashurah is a more visibly celebrated holiday for the Shia, and the news media typically covers the Shia traditions that revolve around this day. However, it is indeed a day celebrated and commemorated by all Muslims and I sincerely hope all my brothers and sisters had a good Ashurah!

...And Allah Knows Best...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas: A Muslim's Perspective

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Today is December 24th, known throughout most of the western world as "Christmas Eve". For Muslims and Jews living here in the US, the Christmas season poses to us an interesting paradox; Respecting and even to a certain extent enjoying the holiday season, while maintaining our own identity. For the Jews their lunar calender is such that the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah falls around the same time as Christmas. For us Muslims however, our lunar calender makes all of our important dates approximately 13 days earlier every year. So, while their are times when our high holidays fall around the same time as Christmas and Hanukkah, at other times they fall in summer. This year our biggest holiday, Eid ul Adha, fell on the day after Thanksgiving. So for many Muslims it worked out that most other Americans were celebrating a holiday weekend at the same time.

We as Muslims do not celebrate Christmas. This is not because we don't believe in the miraculous virgin birth of Jesus Christ (peace and blessings be upon him), because we most certainly do. We do not celebrate Christmas for the same reason that early Christians, some modern Christians, and even Jesus Christ himself didn't celebrate it; because from it's inception, it was not souly a celebration of Christ's birth.

Prior to the rise of Christianity, many ancient peoples held various celebrations commemorating the winter solstice. The Romans celebrated a day called "Dies Natalis Solis Invicti" or "The Birthday of the Unconquered Sun" which was basically a celebration of the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, in which the sun ceased it's southward decent and begins to head northward again as it approaches the summer solstice (the longest day). It was seen as the day in which the sun proved "unconquered" by the "death" of winter. Many early Christian writers made comparisons between this concept and the birth of Christ. John Chrysostom, an early Archbishop of Constantinople said, "they call it the birthday of the unconquered. Who indeed is so unconquered as our lord...". This, according to many scholars, may very well be the origins of the Christian celebration of Christmas.

The ancient pagan peoples of Europe also had winter celebrations centered around the winter solstice. Pagan Scandinavia had a festival called "Yule" held around the time of the solstice and indeed in modern times in Scandinavia Christmas is still called "Jul". When these people became Christianized, they largely kept many of their pagan traditions but simply put Christian "twists" on them. This was also the case when the ancient druid festival of the harvest became "All Hallow's Eve" or "Halloween" for short, or the ancient Germanic month of Eostur Monath (the equivalent to modern 'April'), named for the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre, in becoming "Easter". Many Christian puritanical movements forbade the celebration of Christmas for this very reason.

So, when I hear people say that they get tired of the "secularization" of Christmas and loosing the "true meaning" (meaning the birth of Christ), I find it somewhat ironic because in all reality, Christmas has always had "non-Christian" elements. However, without doubt, the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) is most certainly on of the most important events in human history. Allah, God Almighty relates the story of his birth and mission in many places in the Qur'an.

"Behold! the angel said, 'O Mary! Allah has chosen you and purified you--chosen you above the women of all nations. Oh Mary! Worship the Lord devoutly; prostrate yourself and bow down with those who bow down. (Qur'an 3:42, 43)

"Behold! the angel said, 'Oh Mary, Allah gives you glad tidings of a word from Him; his name shall be Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the hereafter and of those nearest to Allah. He shall speak to the people as a child and as an adult, and he shall be righteous.' She said, 'Oh my Lord, how shall I have a son when no man has touched me?' He said, 'Even so, Allah creates what He wills, and when He has decreed a matter, He only has to say "Be" and it is'. And, Allah will teach him the book and wisdom, the Torah and the Gospel, and appoint him a messenger to the Children of Israel. (he will say) 'I have come to you with a sign from your Lord in that a make a bird from clay, breath into it and it becomes alive by Allah's leave. I heal those who are born blind, and the lepers, and I bring the dead to life, by Allah's leave. I declare unto you what you consume and what you store in your houses. Surely this is a sign for you if you but believe. I come to attest to the Torah which was before me, and to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden. I have come to you with a sign from your Lord. So fear Allah, and obey me. It is Allah that is my Lord and your Lord; so worship Him, for that is the straight way." (Qur'an 3:45-51)

Of his birth, and Mary's labor...
"And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree. She cried, 'Ah would I have died before this! Would that I had been a thing forgotten!' But a voice cried to her from beneath saying "Grieve not for the Lord has provided a stream beneath you, and shake the trunk of the tree and it will let down fresh dates upon you". (Qur'an 19:23-24)

For us as Muslims, Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, is a beloved prophet and messenger of God. His birth is of the most miraculous events in human history and most certainly worthy of remembering and honoring. However, we do not know exactly when this event took place. We, as well as many secular and Christian historians, are fairly confident that it was not on December 25th. So first of celebrating on that day would not be appropriate; especially considering the origin of the date is rooted in pagan traditions. Besides the date, it is also not common in the Jewish or Islamic traditions to celebrate birthdays at all. Jesus Christ himself (peace and blessings be upon him) most likely did not celebrate it as it was not done in Jewish law and tradition at that time, and Jesus is well known to have been an advocate of Jewish law as he is quoted as saying in Matthew 5:17-19

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law of the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But, whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

Some Muslims actually celebrate the birthday of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), however the majority of Muslim scholars and laymen, myself included, generally consider this against fundamental Islamic traditions and a bid'ah or wrongful innovation in the religion. I do not celebrate Muhammad's birthday nor do I advocate doing so, although I don't harshly condemn those who do.

With all of this being said, I want to say that I respect and appreciate the spirit of Christmas. As I grew up in a basically Christian environment, I learned to look forward to not only the gifts but also the memorable time spent with loved ones. The spirit of charity, peace and goodwill towards mankind is a spirit that is shared in Islam. On Eid ul Adha, we remember the legacy of Abraham, who is considered the patriarch of the three great divinely inspired monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. So in addition to remembering the importance of our own religious traditions it is also a time to reflect on our connection to our Jewish and Christian "cousins" in faith. As a Muslim, I appreciate the Christian's spirit of peace and joy during Christmas. I wish to see Christians focus less on the shopping and the materialistic aspects of the holiday, and remember the message of Christ according to their own scriptures. And, if possible, to remember that we Muslims share with them a common belief and love for Jesus Christ (peace and blessings be upon him), even if our theologies may not be exactly the same. I wish all my Christian friends and family a blessed holiday.

...And Allah Knows Best...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Health Care Reform

In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful. Unless you've been dead for the past several months, you know that the US Congress is in the midst of debating and passing a bill aimed at reforming the health care industry in America. The election of Barack Obama was a momentous occasion in American history. Regardless of your political affiliation, whether Democrat, Republican or otherwise, you can't deny the historic nature of the election of the of the first African American US president, and one of the primary campaign issues that won the support of the American people for Obama was the promise to reform health care once and for all. This issue was one of the primary reasons why I supported and voted for Barack Obama; NOT because his middle name is "Hussein" or because he had family connections to Islam as I imagine many American Muslims had as motivation for supporting him. From the Islamic perspective, it is deplorable that here in one of richest countries in the world, people can actually be thrown into financial ruin simply by getting sick. It is deplorable that people become financial slaves to insurance companies that can drop their coverage virtually at will. Without doubt, the health care system in our nation needs reform, but the sticky issue is how to do it. The bill before Congress right now is designed to do that but is it addressing the issue in the right way? I wanted to take some time to reflect upon this issue.

I'll just get this out of the way.... I do not support this current health care bill. I whole-heartily support health care reform, but in my feeling this bill either does not do what needs to be done, or does things or opens doors for things that are far worse than the current void in health care coverage for American citizens. Below I will outline a few issues that prevent me from supporting this health care bill.

A) ABORTION: Ask any biologist when life begins and they all agree that the life of a creature whether animal or human, begins at the point of fertilization of the egg with sperm, and the embryo begins the fetal development process. That is the point when the living tissue (i.e. the egg and the sperm) become distinct from the male and female participants, or in other words a separate entity. So abortion, at any stage, is the killing of a human being. Allah says in the Qur'an, "Say, 'Come and I will recite to you the what Allah has prohibited for you: Join not anything as equal with Him, be good to parents and KILL NOT YOUR CHILDREN FOR FEAR OF WANT, We provide for you and them. Approach not shameful deeds, whether open or secret. TAKE NOT LIFE which Allah has made sacred, except by way of justice and law. This He commands you, that you might learn wisdom" (Qur'an 6:151) First of all this verse clearly and completely prohibits the abortion of fetuses in situations where the mother will simply be "inconvenienced" by the pregnancy, labor, and raising the child. The pre-Islamic Arabs practiced infanticide on baby girls because of cultural ignorance. Modern day abortions is nothing less than fetus-cide. Also however, this verse also prohibits the taking of human life under any circumstance except "by way of justice and law", which would mean the execution of murderers or the fighting of defensive war for example. As it stands right now there are actually two distinct bills currently in Congress; the House bill which has already been passed, and the Senate's bill which is still being debated. In the House version, an amendment was passed that outlawed the use of federal (a.k.a. taxpayer) funds in abortion coverage. In the current Senate bill, the same type of amendment was voted down. In both cases abortion could be funded in the case of rape, incest, or when the pregnancy and birth could cause harm or even death to the mother. Now I feel as do many people of faith, that abortion should be completely illegal except in the case of rape, incest or risk to mother's health. For me personally, because of my faith in God, I wouldn't approve of abortion for my own wife or family even in these exceptions, however I recognize that not all would hold the same world-view. However at the very least, taxpayer money should not be used to fund abortions. I would be disgusted to the point of being physically ill if I knew that any of my money paid in taxes went to intentionally slaughter an innocent child. There is talk that the final compromised bill between the House and Senate may be free of this amendment, if so it is not something I can support, nor would countless other Americans.

B) INDIVIDUAL MANDATE: The bill in both houses also includes the mandating of all Americans to buy health insurance. I'm not a constitutional scholar, however there is an overwhelming amount of evidence to indicate that such a mandate is unconstitutional. The fifth amendment prohibits people being deprived of "life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation". A person's income is most certainly private property and cannot be taken by the government without just compensation (As a side note this is also a compelling argument for the unconstitutionality of 'income-tax'). According to the current bills, if a person fails to purchase health care insurance, they can be fined hundreds of dollars. The money people are forced to spend on health care premiums amount to no less than a seizure of private property, and in the current bills the mandate takes effect almost immediately, while benefits of the bill may not take effect until years later. This would no doubt be a seizure of property without compensation. Aside from the constitutional argument, it would be unprecedented for Congress to mandate American citizens to buy anything. This amounts to a degree of government intrusion into personal liberty that should alarm everyone. If people are mandated to buy health insurance, what will they be mandated next? Will we be mandated to buy "green" cars or homes?

These are the two main reasons why I couldn't support this bill. There are other aspects of it that I question but are more debatable. Another thing that is very alarming about the bill is the speed at which Democrats are trying to push this legislation through. It seems very much to me that they are just trying to pass "anything" without much concern for what's actually in it. Most likely this is due to the fact that the Congressmen know that mid-term elections are coming up in 2010, and know that they may very well loose control of Congress, especially considering recent opinion polls that indicate Americans are increasingly dissatisfied with their actions. The individual mandate issue is also something that has caused President Obama to loose considerable points with me as well being that during the Democratic primary one of his primary differences with Hilary Clinton on health care reform was that he didn't agree with the idea of mandating people to buy coverage. He has completely reversed on that position. In the end we desperately need reform, but reform needs to be constitutional; it needs to be much more bi-partisan, and it needs to be done carefully and lawmakers need to take their time and get it right.

...Allah Knows Best...

Thursday, December 17, 2009


No you're not delusional it's not January 1st, it's Muharram 1st. That's right it's the Islamic New Year. I can practically see the big ball drop on the top of the minaret of Sulaymani Mosque in Istanbul with a big lit up "1431" under it. Ok so that's a joke they don't really do that, but nonetheless this day commemorates a wonderful event. The Hijra occurred exactly 1,431 years ago, when the Prophet Muhammed and his earliest follows made the treacherous journey from Mecca to Yathrib (later to be known as Medinatul Nabi or Medina for short) a journey of over 200 miles thru the burning Arabian desert. Allah says in the Qur'an,

When the Angels pull the souls from those who die in sin, they ask, "In what plight were you in", and they say, "We were weak and oppressed on the Earth". The angels respond, "Was Allah's Earth not spacious enough for you to move yourself from evil?". Such men will find their place in Hell, what an evil abode".
(Surah an Nisa 4:97)

The early Muslim community faced oppression and persecution in a state of weakness that most Muslims today can't imagine. They were starved, beaten and even killed by the pagan Quraysh. They did what some would consider one of the hardest things a person could do; turn their backs on their home and their kin to seek refuge in a strange place with strangers with a different regional culture than theirs. The event was so monumental that the Muslims marked their calender by it.

Muslims today could learn a lot by this. Today Muslims are persecuted and oppressed in many parts of the world including Europe and even ironically in Muslim countries ruled by either secular dictators, corrupt monarchies (which are un-Islamic in the first place), or radical religious fanatics. While Muslims in America don't go without challenges because of being a minority, Muslims here are guaranteed by law to be able to practice Islam freely without government intervention. Many Muslim immigrants recognize that they are actually able to practice Islam more freely here than even back home in their own Muslim majority countries, not to mention the tremendous economic and educational opportunities they find here in America. Muslims who equate America and Europe as synonymous are dead wrong. Being British, or Dutch or Swiss implies certain ethnic and religious characteristics. Being an American however does not mean being of a particular ethnicity or being of a particular religion. It has only to do with believing in the principals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all. That all men and women regardless of race, religion or creed are equal under the law. This is a concept that is not only indicative of America, but was pioneered by the prophet Muhammad himself (peace and blessings be upon him). The Constitution of Medina gave equal rights under the law to all including Muslims, Jews and every ethnic tribe living in Medina.

Allah Knows Best. Happy Islamic New Year everyone!!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Reflections on the Ft. Hood Shooter

It's been a while since I last blogged but I've been busy and such. One recent event that brought Islam and Muslims into more media attention was the tragic events at Ft. Hood, Texas. Maj. Hasan, who had been an officer in the US Army open fire and killed 13 people in what appeared to be simply a "nut" that had "cracked". However, it was brought up that Maj. Hasan had particular problems with idea of Muslims in the US military going to war in places like Iraq and Afghanistan to fight against other Muslims. So, this begs the question, what is the Islamic position on fighting other Muslims? It prompted me to do a bit of research on the issue and has brought me to a conclusion that some might find unexpected.

Allah says in the Qur'an, "Oh you who believe, stand out firmly for justice, even if it be against your own selves, or parents, or kin, or whether they be rich or poor. It is Allah who protects both. Follow not the lusts of your hearts least they make you stray, and if you distort justice or refuse to do justice, truly Allah knows well what you do" (4:135)

and Allah also says in the Qur'an, "It is not for a believer to kill another believer except for by mistake..." (9:42)

In the second verse, Allah is not necessarily referring to Muslims killing Muslims who have committed crimes punishable by death such as murder, adultery, etc... The kind of killing being referred to here would be killing for an unjustifiable reason or in a war with an unjustifiable cause. Which brings me to my next point; are the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan justifiable? Well in the case of Afghanistan, it was most certainly justified for the US to go to Afghanistan considering the US had been attacked by people planning from that country. Iraq was a different story as we, the American people, were led into that war based primarily on a lie. However even in Iraq we must remember that though going in may have been a mistake, we now have a responsibility to ensure that the people of Iraq can live securely. Likewise the war in Afghanistan has been handled stupidly, but we still have a responsibility to see that things don't just get worse after we leave. Of course I'm drastically over-simplifying a lot of the details of this situation mostly for the sake and time.
The bottom line is that for the most part, the people who American troops are fighting primarily, namely the Taliban in Afghanistan and Al Qaeda in Iraq, are the same people who are suicide bombing market places and mosques across Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. One must ask the question, "Who have these people killed more of....Americans or Muslims?". By far Al Qaeda and the Taliban have killed many more Muslims than they have killed non-Muslim Americans. So with that in mind I would have to say this... While Muslims should always strive to avoid conflict with other Muslims, we also have a responsibility to protect innocent brothers and sisters from other deviant Muslims who would do them harm for political gains or religious fanatisism. This is something that the more powerful Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan etc... should be doing anyway (yet they do virtually nothing to oust these deviants). The American troops that are currently in Iraq and Afghanistan are not there to occupy the land or to rape them of their resources as some conspiracy theorists might suggest, ultimately they are there to secure American safety by ensuring that Iraqis and Afghans can live in peace, prosperity and freedom. This mission is something that a Muslim soldier in the US Army should be proud to be a part of.
Ultimately the problem is that we, the Muslims, have developped a "club" or "gang" mentality in which we protect our own no matter what they do. While most Muslims do recognize that there are extremists that kill innocents in the name of Islam, we don't talk enough about what to do about them, or of taking a stand against them; ideally in non-violent ways, but when necessary, Muslims must be willing to protect innocents Muslims or otherwise even if it means fighting other Muslims. The brave Muslim soldiers (who aren't corrupt) who fight in the Iraqi, Afghan, and Pakistani armies against the Taliban and Al Qaeda know this all too well, and too often don't receive the support they need from the greater Muslim Ummah. We must realize that it is our responsibility to take ownership of our problems and of those who kill innocents in the name of Islam. We must stop constantly trying to blame our problems on others and except that our Ummah is in a sad state and dealing with lunatics who blow themselves up in market places and mosques is one of many things we need to do to help ourselves out of this funk. I can only wish that Maj. Hasan would have come to this realization before he did what he did.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Three Deadly Sins of Islam!!! pt. 2

بسم لله الرحمان الرحيم

In the name of Almighty God, the All Merciful, the Beneficent. Last week I discussed two of the "three deadly sins of Islam". These being shirk and kufr. These two are definitely the greatest sins, as they involve our faith, and what is in our heart. However the third deadly sin is also extremely dangerous but not just because of what it does to our faith, but how it affects our behavior towards our fellow man. This is of course nifaq, or "hypocrisy".
The word Hypocrisy is defined in Webster's dictionaries as: an act or a practice of feigning to be what one is not, or to feel what one does not feel; especially, the false assumption of goodness. Therefore, a hypocrite is a false pretender and dissembler to virtue or piety. In the Islamic terminology, the word Hypocrisy is a substitute for 'Nifaq'. This word Nifaq has been mentioned in the Qur'an thirty-one (31) times in different forms.
In the Qur'an, God makes one thing abundantly clear, at that is that for those who leave this world in a state of nifaq, they have been promised a place in the fiery depths of Hell. God says in the Qur'an,
God hath promised the hypocrites, men and women, and the rejecters of Faith, the fire of Hell; therein shall they dwell; sufficient is it for them: for them is the curse of God, and an enduring punishment. (9:68)
Notice that God puts the hypocrites right there on the same level with the "rejecters of faith" or the kefir, one of sins I mentioned last week. So this leaves no doubt that hypocrisy is a tremendously dangerous sin. God Almighty says in another part of the Qur'an,
When the hypocrites come to thee, they say, 'We bear witness that thou art indeed the Apostle of God.' Yea, God knoweth that thou art indeed His Apostle, and God beareth witness that the hypocrites are indeed liars. (63:1)
God says it here that the hypocrites are "indeed liars". Ask yourself now how common is it today to see Muslims lie about things? The prophet Muhammad (sws) said in an authentic hadith,
The signs of a hypocrite are three: when he speaks, he lies; when he gives an agreement, he does not fulfill his commitment; and when he is entrusted, he betrays the trust.
Now honestly we must look around at our Ummah, and seriously ask ourselves the question, how much of these things are we seeing now-a-days in the Muslim world? Quite a bit I would say. The prophet (sws) also said about hypocrites, quote
You will find that the worst person is double-faced; he meets one group of people with one side of his face, while another with the other side.
When we look around our world today we see a lot of this. We see this kind of behavior in markets where goods are bought and sold. We see this in the masajid when people will show up for salah (prayer) on Friday, and on Saturday night their partying it up at the clubs and so fourth. We especially see it in politics. We see these politicians who when talking to one group of people they say one thing, and when talking to another group they say another thing. I mean if the most powerful and richest amongst us Muslims, are acting in such a way that is clearly a sign of nifaq, what does that say about our Ummah. At the time of the prophet (sws) lying was considered a horrible act even by the mushrikeen (pagan Arabs) of that day. This is why it was such a huge insult when they called the prophet (sws) a liar, because at that time in Arabia, lying was considered uncouth, undignified, and cowardly. However, today, lying is so common, that in many arenas it is simply accepted as the norm. In politics it is accepted as fact that lying is just part of the game. If you go into a shop in most Muslim countries and ask how much a shirt or something like that is, it is commonly accepted that the shop owner will tell you at least three times what it's actually worth, because the expectation is that it will be negotiated, when what should happen is that the shop owner should have enough integrity to give a reasonable and accurate price from the beginning, and the one buying the product should understand what would be an acceptable price and not try to short change the shop owner either. So when these things, which are described by the prophet (sws) as signs of hypocrisy, are so common place in Muslim countries that they are accepted norms, then what does that say about the level of iman (faith) of our Ummah (people)? I'll tell you what it says. It says that we as the Ummah of Muhammad (sws) have reached a point that we are utterly failing to uphold even the most basic of Islamic principals. Why is it that many Muslims have to come to the non-Muslim western countries in order to escape economic, and cultural slavery, or even to simply be able to practice Islam freely? Why is it the non-Muslim leaders of the world who are actually "doing something" about the suffering people in Gaza, or in Kashmir, or in Nigeria, or in Somalia? And, by "doing something", I mean actually getting involved, sending food, sending supplies, taking people in, and when necessary standing up against oppressors. Why was it that it was the non-Muslim administration of the United States that eventually committed it's military to stopping the genocide in Bosnia? Where was Saudi Arabia, where was Jordan, where was Egypt? Where were the wealthy and powerful Muslim countries? Sitting on their hands, that's where. Why? Maybe because they stood to loose to much money by doing so. Maybe, they didn't want to risk being seen as radical "jihadists". Whatever their outward reason, ultimately it boils down to the fact that by all indications, and God knows best, we, the Muslim Ummah are in the midst of a disgusting, rancid, blistering plague of nifaq. A plague that dwarfs the black death of Europe, or any other historical plague.
So, I mention again that the prophet (sws) said that the primary indicators of nifaq in a persons behavior are
1. He lies when he speaks ~ We must ask ourselves if we've ever lied to anyone, even a little lie. Lying is a tremendous sin in Islam, even the smallest of lies can be deadly to one's soul and one's akhirah (afterlife). The next time someone asks you about Islam, and if they have any doubt in what your saying, just educate them that lying in our faith is absolutely forbidden and we can go to Hell for doing so.
2. He does not keep promises~ God only knows, but I'd bet that we've all broken a promise at one time or another. We must remember that this can very easily constitute nifaq if it is a common occurrence.
3. He does not take care of that with which he is entrusted~ In other words this is someone who is given something to take care of it, and he abuses that privilege. Again, this also very easily can be applied to some of the so-called "leaders" of the Muslim world, who are entrusted with the lives and liberty of the people of their country, and instead of honoring that amanah (trust) they abuse it for their own personal gain.
We need to start holding ourselves, the Muslim Ummah, accountable to ourselves and to our deen (religion). If we are in this plague of nifaq, then how can we ever hope to be successful in combating the problems we face. God Almighty says in his Qur'an,
The hypocrites, men and women, (have an understanding) with each other: They enjoin evil, and forbid what is just, and are close-fisted with their hands. They have forgotten Allah so He has forgotten them. Verily the hypocrites are rebellious and perverse.
(At-Tawbah 9:67)
One part of this verse really sticks out to me, They have forgotten Allah so He has forgotten them. If we, not necessarily as individuals, but as an Ummah, have forgotten God, and forgotten to put God in His proper position in life, then what do we expect to happen to our brothers and sister in Palestine, or Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Pakistan, or Somalia, or even to brothers and sisters right here in the US? The plight of the Muslims in this day in age is nothing more than a test from Him. A test that I fear, we are failing miserably. I once heard it said, if you want to know where you stand with God, then look to where God stands with you. Where are you putting God in your life? Are you brushing Him under the rug, only to be seen when you go "clean" yourself out spiritually? Are you putting Him in a convenient little drawer where you can go to him when you want but forget him when you don't. Or, are you putting Allah in His proper place, which is at the center of everything. At the center of your life, in the forefront of your mind, and at the core of your heart. Doing this is what protects us from shirk. It is what protects us from kufr, and it is what protects us from nifaq.
As a final note, everyone by now knows that we in the US have a new President, Barack Hussain Obama. I think it's important that we extend du'a for him, his family, and for his administration that Allah might firstly guide them to the siratul mustaqeem or the "straight path" of Islam. But also, that Allah, God Almighty, guide them to lead this country away from the self-destructive path that we have been on, and to once again make America represent the beacon of freedom and democracy that we profess to be. Ameen.
....And Allah Knows Best....

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Three Deadly Sins of Islam!!! pt. 1

بسم لله الرحمان الرحيم
In the name of Almighty God, the All-Merciful, the All-Beneficent.

A couple weeks ago I noticed that the History Channel was doing a week long documentary special on the "Seven Deadly Sins", of Christianity. A friend of mine who also saw this asked me if we as Muslims have anything like this in our faith. At first my answer was no, but then I thought about it. We do have something like that, but they would be narrowed down to three rather than seven. These are shirk, kufr, and nifaaq. These three things are sins that are considered extremely dire sins and it is important that we all, from time to time, remind ourselves of these things, and of how easy they sometimes can be to fall into.
The first of these sins is shirk. This concept can be summed up in a riddle a good friend of mine once told me, and I'll share it with you today. What is it that a common man sees all the time, a king sees every once in a while, and God never sees, and God sees all?...........................jeopardy song....................................give up? The answer is, rivalry. God never experiences rivalry because their are no gods except Him, and shirk is to associate ANYTHING else, with God. It is the very foundation of all of Islamic doctrine and spirituality. La ilaha illa Allah, "There is no god, but God"; the utterance of this statement, along with Muhammadun Rasoolullah "Muhammad is the messenger of God", is what makes someone Muslim. To worship anything besides God, to associate any kind of partner with God is shirk. This sin is considered the greatest sin of all, because it is the only sin in which God says that it will NOT be forgiven. God says in the Qur'an,
"Verily, Allah forgives not that partners be ascribed to Him, but He forgives anything except that; and whoever sets up partners with Allah in worship, has indeed invented a tremendous sin". (Qur'an 4:48)
God Almighty also says,
"Then when the trumpet is blown, there will be no kinship among them on that day, nor will they ask of one another.
Then those whose scales (of good deeds) are heavy, these! they are the successful.
The fire will burn their faces, and therein they will grin with disfigured lips.
Were not My verses recited to you and then you used to deny them?
They will say 'Our Lord, our wretchedness overcame us and we were an erring people.
Our Lord, bring us out of this. If we ever return to evil, then indeed we shall be wrongdoers.'
He (Allah) will say, 'Remain you in this with ignominy! And speak not to me!'

(Qur'an 23:101-108)
Then again Allah says,
"And whoever invokes something in worship besides Allah, any other god of whom he has no proof, then his reckoning is only with his Lord. Surely, those who disbelieve will not be successful. (Qur'an 23:117)
Shirk is most commonly associated with polytheistic religions such as Hinduism or ancient Greek or Roman religions. It can also be seen in religions like Buddhism were people may pray to or invoke the presence of the Buddha. Even amongst the Ahl al Kitab, or the "People of the Book" it can be found. Even though the Bible recounts the ten commandments of Moses (pbuh), the first of which is "thou shall have no other gods but Me", still many Christians, not all but some, fall into the trap of calling Jesus Christ (pbuh) God! God talks about the Christians calling Jesus His son in the Qur'an. However many Christians will take it a step further and actually say that Jesus was "God in human form". This is also shirk. Also you can see it in the Nation of Islam. Don't let the name fool you, their beliefs are not Islam. You can go to the Nation's website and see very plainly there the continuation of the teachings of Elijah Muhammad who said that Allah had come to Earth in human form, in the person of Wallace Fard, that Elijah Muhammad was a prophet of Allah, and that the "white man" is the direct physical descendant of Iblis and is fundamentally evil.
There are a couple different manifestations of shirk that we can see demonstrate both in scripture and in present day situations.

SHIRK AL AKBAR (The Major Shirk)
This is the most severe and deadliest shirk, and by deadly I don't mean physically but spiritually. For an example this we can turn to the Qur'an in 29:65.
"And when they embark on a ship, they invoke Allah, making their faith pure for him only, but when he brings them safely to land, behold, they give a share of their worship to others".
This verse reminds me of the saying, "there are no atheists in fox holes". In other words, when people are starring down the prospect of death at any moment, they will turn to God, and say "Oh God please save me!", but then when God does save them, they will turn back to their old ways; showing absolutely no gratitude to God for being sparred.
Also another way that this form of Shirk is manifested is when people render "complete" authority to anything but God. Again when we look to the Qur'an, in 9:31,
"They took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah, and also the Messiah, the son of Mary, while they were commanded (in the Torah and the Gospels) to worship none but one God. There is none worthy of worship but Him. Glorified is He from having the partners that they associate with Him."
In this particular case, God is talking about the Ahl al Kitab or the "People of the Book" (i.e. the Jews and Christians). In addition to the worship of Jesus Christ (pbuh), God mentions the rabbis and the monks. This is to say the establishment of a priesthood. This is one of the most beautiful things about Islam, is that there is no concept of priesthood. Every human being is equal to God in terms of their ability to understand his commands and discern right from wrong. However, in Muslim history, a type of "priesthood" has been set up in many ways by both Sunni and Shia groups. Many people will say "I'm a Hanafi" or "I'm a Shafi'i", and they take their religion from these imams, and no one else, even though these imam's themselves never said that they ought to be followed blindly. In fact all of them were quoted as to saying that if anything they say contradicts what can be proven of the Sunnah (way of prophet Muhammad 'pbuh') then we are to disregard it. Being a scholar of Islam means that you have memorized the Qur'an and/or memorized entire collections of hadith, or have mastered one or more of the sciences of Islam, and this is a tremendous accomplishment that should not be downplayed in any way, shape or form. However, none of this necessarily makes you more capable of "reasoning" then any other human being. I have often found that sometimes a major problem with very "educated" people is that they over-think things. God Almighty told us in the Qur'an, that this book has been given to us in plain Arabic, or plain language. Likewise the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that he left us two things, The Qur'an and his Sunnah. This means that these two things are all we really need in to be successful in this life and the next. So we must be careful that we do not fall into the same trap that our Jewish and Christian brethren did, by taking our imams as lords, or "authorities" besides God.
SHIRK AL ASGHAR (The Minor Shirk)
This is to perform any act of worship, simply for gaining benefit or praise in this world. This is much more common than folks think. Many people when praying on their own will pray "sloppy". They may rush through it, just "going through the motions". However, when they are with people, they are very serious and hold themselves very confidently and piously during prayer. Why, because they want those other people to think that they are a good religious person. In some cases they may not even pray at all when they are alone. So, this is performing acts of worship that are designed for God alone, for the "entertainment" of others.

The next major/deadly sin, is the sin of kufr. In pre-Islamic Arabia, the word kufr was often used to refer to a farmer, who would plant a seed in the ground and then "cover" in up with earth. This "covering" was called kufr. When the Qur'an came, God Almighty used the word kufr to refer to those who had heard the message of Islam and the message of Muhammad (pbuh), refused to accept it, and "covered" it with their backward sense of reasoning.
One major problem that Muslims have now-a-days, is that many of us are in the habit of using this label, calling someone a kafr, far too lightly. Many Muslims automatically call anyone other than Muslims kafrs. Horribly, some will even call other Muslims kafrs if they don't believe in or practice Islam exactly how they do. This is very bad, both for the Muslim calling people that as well as for the entire Ummah (Muslim people's of the world).
To clarify, kufr, is to "knowingly" disbelieve and/or reject any of the six pillars of faith. which are:
-Believe in God
-Believe in Angels
-Believe in ALL the prophets (Adam, Moses, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, etc)
-Believe in God's revelations (Torah, Psalms, Gospel, & Qur'an)
-Believe in the Day of Judgment
-Believe in Divine Pre-Destination (God knows past, present, future).

Anyone who rejects or disbelieves in these things, who fully and completely understand them is a kafr. If they don't fully understand them, or don't have any knowledge of them at all, they are not a kafr, they are jahil or "ignorant". Remember, in order to "cover" the truth as the kufar (plural of kafr) do, they must first "have" the truth. There are several different manifestations of kufr, just as there are with shirk.
KUFR AL TAKDHEEB- This is to reject or "invent a lie" against any of the fundamental tenants of faith. God says in the Qur'an,
"Then who does more wrong than one who utters a lie against Allah, and denies the truth when it comes to him! Is there not in Hell, an abode for the disbelievers". (Qur'an, 39:32)
KUFR OF ARROGANCE- This is to refuse to obey God's commands when they have been made apparent to you, as Iblis (Satan) did when God created the first man, Adam. God says in the Qur'an,
"And remember when We said to the angels, 'Prostrate yourselves before Adam'. And the prostrated except Iblis, he refused and was proud and was one of the disbelievers." (Qur'an 2:34)
As the prophet Muhammad said, Satan has given up misleading you in large things, so beware the small things. Most of us don't go so far as to deny the obligation of the salah (five daily prayers), or of the obligation to fast, however many Muslims will try to find ways around many of the other commands of God. For example you'll see many Muslim shop owners who sell alcohol and liquor, and when you ask them why do you do this when you know it's haram they say, "well we have to be able to compete with other stores". Or, when you see sisters going without their hijab, they say that "they don't want to stand out", or "they don't want to be harassed". Sometimes they "sheikh shop" for imams or so-called scholars who will say that it's not obligatory. Sometimes Muslims engage in partying, gambling, fornication, and other sorts of activities and when you remind them of their duty to God, they just kind of shrug it off, as if they may live forever and never face God for the things they did in this life. This is arrogance in the face of God, and it to is a form kufr. Not necessarily the kind that completely excludes you from Islam, but nonetheless it is a form of kufr.
One more form of kufr is Kufr an Nifaaq. This is hypocritical disbelief. God Almighty says in the Qur'an,
"They have made their oaths a screen. Thus they hinder people from the path of Allah. Verily, evil is what they used to do. That is because they believed, and then disbelieved, therefore their hearts are sealed, so they understand not." (Qur'an 16:112)
This form of kufr implies being a hypocrite. Saying that you are a believer only to gain worldly gains, while inwardly still maintaining your disbelief, and this will lead us into the next "deadly sin", nifaaq or hypocrisy, which, God willing, I will continue with next week.
......And Allah Knows Best......