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.

!!!please make sure to sign up on my followers list at the bottom of the page!!!

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.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Double Standard If I Ever Saw One

In the name of Almighty God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Most people by now have heard of the tragedy in Austin where a man who was completely disgruntled with the government flew his small plane into the IRS building, killing one employee. Firstly I'll say that despite the desperately inept and incompetent nature of our current government, and the blatant disregard for certain aspects of the US Constitution by the IRS and federal government as a whole, it is never....let me repeat...NEVER ok to resort to this type of violence to accomplish political goals.
Now of course what I'm saying really isn't a contested issue. Every sane person knows what he did was wrong. However I remember listening to coverage of the incident in my car and the Austin city officials saying "this was not an act of terrorism". Likewise the national news media, for the most part, are not labeling this as a terrorist attack.


Is it just because the guy's name was Joe instead of Muhammad? That's kinda what I suspect. US federal law defines terrorism as,

"premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets' or as 'the unlawful use of force against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."

It most certainly sounds to me that this attack most certainly fits that category. I only bring this up to point out the fact that the term "terrorist" in the minds of many Americans has become synonymous with the term "Muslim".

The bottom line is that it doesn't matter what someones motivation is for committing such atrocity...whether it be a perverted version of jihad (see my post on jihad for what it REALLY is) or some loony tune right wing agenda or loony tune left wing agenda (this guy was kinda both) matter their motivation, it is terrorism, plain and simple.

His act of terrorism scares me that the current political polarization of this country could lead to more acts of desperation like this. After all it was similar political polarization that lead to the 'first' civil war. With the current activity of groups like the TEA party movement, as well as the current uncompromising liberalism of the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership in Congress, I'm starting to become really and truly afraid that the two may be on a collision course...and not just politically but even violently.

Both sides have settled for ignorance and have truths to justify their goals. The liberals of the current government bend facts and numbers to make the things they are doing look less abrasive then they are, and snub their noses at people who disagree as being too stupid to see their 'genius'. They are pushing a 'version' of health care reform that the vast majority of Americans don't want, (Americans do want health care reform but not necessarily the progressive liberal nonsense that they are trying to push). They insist on unlimited deficit spending that puts us more and more indebted to other countries. What happens when we default? Is China going to foreclose on California? Then what? World War Three??

The TEA party people and so-called conservatives aren't much better. They call for smaller government, and fiscal responsibility. That's great! However, they also are the people who still justify the invasion of Iraq (a country that had NOTHING to do with 9/11) and seem to promote American imperialism around the world. Ann Coulter, who is seen as a leading conservative voice, said that America ought to go to Muslim countries and forcibly convert them to Christianity!! I personally attended a TEA party event where the pastor giving the invocation said that "really the 9/11 hijackers could be called devout Muslims" as opposed to radicals or extremists. These are the same people who spout ridiculous rumors that Obama is a secret Muslim (which even if he was since when does that disqualify someone for being President?). They are the same people still trying to claim that he's not really a born American citizen.

It seems to me that we as a nation are becoming more and more a nation of either right wing idiots or liberal elitist d-bags. And, if that polarization continues, I really fear for the future of our great nation. Please for love of God...get facts, not half truths, or take opinions (as facts) from the Rush Limbaughs, Ann Coulters, Sean Hannitys, AND the Nancy Pelosis, Harry Reids and Bill Mahrs of the world.

...and Allah knows best...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Friend in Crisis

In the name of Almighty God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Yesterday I received an email from a good friend and drummer colleague of mine with an attachment to a New York Post story run yesterday on a Muslim prison chaplain, Imam Zul Qarnain Abdu Shahih had been arrested for bringing razor blades and scissors into the prison where he worked; charged with four counts of promoting prison contraband. The thing is that Zul Qarnain is a good friend of mine. In addition to being an Imam, he's a very talented conguero (conga player) who has toured with Native Deen and Seven8Six alongside me. He is not only a colleague of mine but a very dear friend as well. Though he lives in New York City and I live in Ohio, we have shared many memorable experiences in our travels across the globe playing behind Native Deen.

The article points to the fact that Zul Qarnain actually spent 14 years in prison himself after being convicted of murder and robbery (along with three others) in 1979 for a grocery store robbery in which a customer was shot to death. At that time his name was Paul Pitts. So, understandably, the article begs the question 'how does a convicted ex-con get hired as a prison chaplain?' Well I don't know all the details but I do remember when he got that job and he said that he had volunteered at the prison for so long that he was hired based on their experience with him.

The article also points out that the blades and scissors were discovered when he was going through a security checkpoint and the x-ray machine indicated that metal was in the bag. He was actually at first admitted into the prison because the officers believed that he didn't know that the objects (which to clarify was three injector blades for an injector razor or a typical shaving razor) were in his bag. Then, apparently later, another corrections officer called the authorities and that was all she wrote.

It should be noted that he is NOT being officially charged with anything to do with promoting violence (promoting contraband does not have anything to do with promoting violence) however an anonymous city Corrections source said, "it's a disgrace that taxpayers are funding Muslim chaplains who not only have criminal records, but are promoting violence." This brings me to my point. Because he is a Muslim imam, and the fact that he does have criminal record, he will be crucified in the media as being a 'radical hate preaching, violence promoting' imam. The right wing media outlets such as Fox News (if they pick up on the story) would depict him as such because their agenda is that Muslims are the new 'commies' and all are to be regarded with suspicion, and the left wing liberal media outlets such as CNN (if they pick up on the story) will depict him as such because liberals are anti-religion in general.

As someone who knows this man personally, I would believe that he forgot or didn't even know it was in his bag. I might even believe if it was said that out of mercy to an inmate he might bring something like that in (it would be wrong but I might believe that) but I would never in a million years believe that those things were ever brought in with the intention to facilitate violence against anyone. This man, as far as I could tell, doesn't have a violent bone in his body, at least not anymore. He spoke very positively about Christians and Jews and was frequently involved in establishing relations with them. That's not the behavior of an extremist. Anyone who knows him personally knows that the idea of him promoting violence is just silly. Even the corrections officers who initially searched him at the checkpoint seemed to know him well enough to believe it was an honest mistake. He loves people, all people. He is genuinely one of the most loving and lovable people I've ever met. My heart fell to my feet when I read this story. Insha'Allah (God willing) I will try to contact him, but in the mean time, if he ever reads this, I pray that he knows that we all are praying for him. May Allah give him patience and guidance through this difficult time, and may justice be done. You can see the NY Post story by following the link that I included in the story.

...And Allah Knows Best...

Friday, February 5, 2010


In the name of Almighty God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Do I have your attention? I'm sure with that title there are some FBI and CIA agents looking at this so howdy y'all! Although with the Christmas Bomber being able to "slip" past them, I wouldn't be surprised if they weren't. Just as I'm not surprised that they don't really know the meaning of "Jihad", which is my topic today. Jihad has unfortunately become something of a 4-letter word in today's political climate, but in reality, jihad is an important and fundamental part of the Islamic faith, and it is important that non-Muslims, and especially Muslims, understand what it really means.

Firstly let me say this; Many people will say things like ,"there is no violence in Islam" or "Islam is a religion of peace" or "the word Islam means peace". Well I'll let the cat out of the bag and clarify that these statements are not completely true. The word "Islam", actually means "submission" or specifically to submit willfully and completely to the will of Almighty God. The Arabic language is a language based on root words and the root word of Islam is "sa-la-ma" which is the also the root of the word "salaam" which of course in Arabic means "peace". So the words "Islam" and "Salaam" have the same root words, but they don't actually mean the same thing. Islam is a religion, like all other religions, that seeks to establish peace amongst human beings, however true peace comes from justice. As long as there is injustice, there cannot be peace. Even if people submit themselves to an oppressive ruler in order to avoid being killed, that isn't really peace.

So, what is Jihad? Does it really mean 'holy war', or is it strictly an inward spiritual thing? Well it is actually both and yet neither of them at the same time. The word 'jihad' is best translated into English as 'struggle'. There are two basic types of Jihad:

1) Jihad ul Nafs

2) Jihad ul Shayateen

Jihad ul Nafs is "Struggle of the Self". This refers to the inward struggle to discipline our own selves to behave above our base, animalistic instincts. It is to refine ourselves toward the ideal state of the human "self". Nafs has largely been understood by Islamic scholars to refer to the combination of the ruh or 'soul' or 'spirit' of a person, and their physical body. So when someone dies for example they loose their 'nafs' as their spirit and body are separated. As they lay in the grave their body deteriorates while their spirit remains in a state called "barzakh" (a dream like state) in the grave. So the jihad, or the struggle of the self, is the struggle to perfect our selves inwardly. To strive to avert your eyes when presented with images of scantly clad women is a jihad. To strive to be kind to people who you don't particularly like or people who aren't kind to you is a jihad. Even to be able to drag yourself out of bed in the morning to make the fajr (dawn) prayer is a jihad (at least for me it is). The prophet Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him is reported to have said that the Jihad ul Nafs is the greater jihad, while the Jihad ul Shayateen is the lesser Jihad.

Jihad ul Shayateen or "Struggle against Evil Ones", refers to a struggle against outside forces including Iblis (the devil), the evil Jinn (demons) and evil human beings. This type of Jihad can take many forms. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said,

"the best jihad is to speak a word of justice to an oppressive ruler" (Sunan Abu Dawood 2040)

So the first and best form of jihad ul shayateen, is to speak up against rulers who are oppressing people. This hadith is prime evidence of the compatibility of American democracy and Islam. The First Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees the peoples' right to do just that. That is why in Islamic government, the head executive is called a 'khalifah', which doesn't mean a ruler or king, but rather means 'a servant which has been given a trust'. In other words, according to Islam, the people are not the subjects of the government, the government is the subject of the people. So to establish this equilibrium is the best form of jihad ul shayateen. This form of jihad can also come in other forms. For example if oppression is financial, like the oppression of banks and the use of riba (interest) based banking, then the proper jihad against it means hitting the banks in wallet; not putting money in them. However, sometimes, when people are being violently oppressed, then it becomes necessary for the jihad to take on a violent form for the sake of defending the defenseless, and stopping this most awful type of oppression. This is the type of jihad most people have come to associate with the word, that is most people including non-Muslims and Muslims in many cases.

In the Qur'an, God speaks of the use of violence to defend the oppressed. Those who like to claim that Islam is a bloodthirsty, violent religion like to quote these verses in defense of their position. However they often don't quote the entire verse when they do so. For example they like to quote the verse...

"and kill them wherever you find them"

They'll quote this but they wont often quote the rest of the verse. Notice that it starts with the word "and", which of course means that something precedes it. So let us look at the entire verse.

"Fight in the cause of Allah, those who fight you, but do not transgress the limits, for Allah does not love the transgressors. And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out of the places where they drove you out, for oppression is worse than killing. But do not engage them in combat in the sacred mosque, unless they engage you there. If they do so, kill them. Such is the reward for those who suppress faith, but if they cease, then Allah is oft-forgiving, most merciful. Fight them until there is no more oppression, and justice and faith prevails. But, if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who cause oppression." (Qur'an 2:190-193).

By quoting the verse in its entirety, it's very plain to see that the permission to use violence in the Qur'an is only against those who fighting and killing you. Notice the phrase "oppression is worse than killing". Upon reading this it reminds me vividly of Patrick Henry's "give me liberty or give me death". In other words it's better to kill me than to oppress me or to take my liberty. Likewise, while killing is never something one should want to do, it becomes necessary when someone is committing violent oppression of others. Also, if you read this verse in it's original Arabic, you will notice that the word 'jihad' is not even used in this verse. In fact the Qur'an never uses the word 'jihad' in connection to violence. The word used for fighting here is 'kitaal'.

Likewise, the prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) gave many limitations to the Muslim armies in regards to conduct in battle. He forbade Muslims from killing any non-combatants (men, women or children), he forbade them from destroying houses of worship (regardless of religion), he forbade them from destroying civilian infrastructure (water sources, food sources, etc...), he forbade the unnecessary cutting of trees or destruction of crop, and he forbade the killing of livestock.

Like I said, jihad is an important part of Islam. It is largely considered obligatory for Muslims to engage in it in some form at some point in their life (as it is extremely unlikely that one would ever go an entire lifetime without being in a situation when it was necessary). It is important however to realize that there is a lot of confusion as to what jihad actually is.

In order for a violent jihad to be justified, the oppressors must be engaged in violence against a purely innocent group of people. In modern times there have been several justified jihads including the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the genocide in Bosnia. Ironically in most cases when violent jihad has been justified, the US has been on the side of the mujihadeen (people who fight jihad). There is no justified jihad against the US as the US is not attempting to occupy any Muslim land nor is the US killing Muslims simply because they are Muslims. There are a lot of silly conspiracy theories amongst Muslims that the US is "secretly" waging war against Islam, but that is about as intelligent those who say that the Jews own ALL the media and that the Holocaust never happened. It's just silly. The US has without doubt made some dumb mistakes in foreign policy over the past several decades that have indeed led to a much lesser quality of life for many Muslims including the propping up of tyrannical dictators such as Saddam Hussein, prolonging civil war in Somalia by not excepting a widely agreed upon Islamic Courts government (even though they weren't the greatest but they did unite many of Somalia's warring tribes), and the blind financial and military industrial support of Israel without regard for how money and weapons were being used.

However despite all the mistakes that the American government has made in these regards, America has never held any fundamental hostility towards the religion of Islam. So those who call for Jihad against the US are wrong, and most certainly those who try to justify the killing of innocents are dead wrong.

I've read a letter to the American people from Usama Bin Laden on the State Department's website, and to be honest 90% of what he says is true. He speaks of how America has lost its way from the principals layed out by its founders. That America has become the very thing that it fought for independence from (a world empire). However it's that other 10% that makes him very scary and dangerous. He says that because the American people choose their leadership, that the American people themselves constitute part of the government, and are therefore a legitimate target. This view is completely un-Islamic and a complete twisting and distortion of the teachings of the Qur'an, as it can be seen from the above quoted verses. Besides, since when have our elected Representatives REALLY ever represented OUR interests?

In truth, if you want to talk about who is real enemy of Muslims of the world today, it isn't America or any other non-Muslim country. It is groups like Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and their ilk. They have killed many many more innocent Muslims then America ever has. Ultimately they don't have any intent on establishing the kind of justice that the Qur'an and our prophet taught. They only want power, and to thrust the extreme, puritanical 'version' of Islam on their under their thumb.

I hope that for some non-Muslims that read this that it would clarify some mis-information they may have on the concept of Jihad amongst Muslims, and I hope for Muslims reading this that they consider the implications of jihad in their own life and ask themselves if they're truly upon the proper understanding of this concept.

...And Allah Knows Best...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Islam and the Paranormal

In the name of Allah (Almighty God), the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Recently my wife and I watched the movie "Paranormal Activity". I have always found stories of such happenings very intriguing. Of course the word "paranormal" is defined in the dictionary as, "of or pertaining to the claimed occurrence of an event or perception without scientific explanation". This of course can pertain to a wide breadth of things; possibly including religion itself (depending upon how you look at it). Most commonly it refers to such things as ghosts, demons, aliens, and some claimed human characteristics such as psychokinesis and telepathy. Allah does not leave us without information about the existence of such things. In short all of these things can be explained by one word, Jinn.

The Arabic word jinn comes from the Arabic root ja-na-a which means "to hide" or "conceal". A jinni is a creature, created by Allah, that is similar to us in that it has free choice or sometimes referred to as free will. Just as humans, there are numerous jinn that occupy the earth, and also jinn that occupy the universe at large as well. Because they are creatures of free will, some choose to obey God and some don't. In fact, like humans, the majority of them do not obey Allah. Jinn were created before humans which is evident in the story of the most famous jinni, Iblis, or also known as Lucifer or Satan. He was at one time, considered a righteous servant of Allah. However when Allah created Adam, the first human being, all the angels and jinn who were present were ordered to bow to Adam in respect for the great power (of reason, logic, the various faculties) that Allah had given to mankind. Iblis, or Satan, in his arrogance, refused to acknowledge Adam as having any superiority over him. The story is related in the Qur'an.

"Call to mind, when we ordered the angels (and present jinn); 'Prostrate to Adam', they all prostrated, except Iblis. He refused and was arrogant, being already one of the disbelievers." (Qur'an 2:35)

"Allah questioned him; 'what prevented you from prostrating when I commanded?' He responded, 'I am better than he. You have created me from fire while you've created him from clay.' Allah said, 'in that case, be gone from this place; your arrogance pleases me not, you are surely of those who are astray. Iblis pleaded, 'Give me respite till the day which they shall be raised up (the day of judgment). Allah said 'you are given respite'. Iblis said, 'Since you have brought about my ruin, I will surely lie in wait for them upon the straight path (of righteousness) and will approach them from the front and from the rear, from the left and from the right, and you will find most of them ungrateful. Allah said, 'get out then, despised and banished. Whoever of them follow you should know that I will fill Hell with all of you". (Qur'an 7:13-19)

As is shown in the last part of the second quoted verse, Iblis himself, and by extension the Jinn in general, are subject to the same judgment and hellish punishment that evil humans are. So the popular image of Satan ruling over Hell and torturing damned souls is really not accurate. In fact, Iblis, other jinn who follow him, as well as humans who have chosen his path will all collectively be tortured in the blazing fire of Hell. The Qur'an relates in another place that in fact it will be a group of terrifying angels that will be in charge of guarding the gates of hell and subject its inhabitants to grueling torment.

"Oh you who believe, save yourselves and your families from a blazing fire whose fuel is men and stones, over which are appointed angels stern and severe who flinch not from executing the commands of Allah, but do precisely what they are commanded". (Qur'an 66:6)

Jinn, as Iblis mentioned, are created from fire.

"He created Man from sounding clay like the clay of pottery and created the Jinn from a smokeless flame of fire" (Qur'an 55:15)

The prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) also related to us much information on the Jinn as well. Like other prophets including Solomon, David, and Jesus Christ, Muhammad, after becoming a prophet, was given the ability to see and interact with jinn. There was even a time when the prophet witnessed a group of jinn embracing Islam which is related in the Qur'an in Surah Al Jinn.

The Qur'an and Sunnah (or authentic traditions of the prophet Muhammad), basically illustrate to us that while some jinn are good, most are bad and try to mislead us from the path of God, and use there various abilities to do so. Such abilities include flight, telepathy, non-verbal communication (whispers into the mind of humans), audio and visual manifestations (hearing voices or seeing apparitions), and probably the most frightening, possession of human bodies.

In the film "Paranormal Activity", a young couple buys a video camera to try to document strange occurrences that had been taking place in their home. At one point the young woman invites a psychic to their home to seek advise, and she tells him that this did not start in this house but rather she has been experience these things since she was 8 years old. Now, we know from authenticated traditions of the prophet that some human beings can communicate with jinn. Some use this ability to foretell the future such as fortune tellers. The prophet's wife Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her), related that some people asked the prophet about fortune tellers and he said, "they are nothing". To which they replied, "Sometimes they tell us things that come true". The prophet explained, "a jinn snatches that true word (from the whispers of the angels) and pours it into the ear of his friend (the fortune teller) and then the fortune teller mixes it with a hundred lies". (Sahih Al Bukhari 7:657).

So if some people can communicate with jinn for these purposes, they can also communicate with the jinn for other reasons, and in many cases the jinn that they are communicating with is only misleading them. So while we reject the use of physics to resolve problems with jinn, we do recognize that there are people capable of communicating with them. The psychic tells the couple that he specializes in "ghosts" which are believed by some to be souls of dead human beings. Also we know as Muslims that the soul of a dead human being does not walk the Earth, but instead rest in the grave until the Day of Judgment. However, jinn can manifest images to us in many forms, including images, voices, and other characteristics of dead humans. This is why you often see apparitions and so forth of say Civil War soldiers on modern day battlefield parks or possibly a young woman who died violently in a particular house. Jinn will use these images to make us believe that the dead walk the Earth, which is something that is not taught by Islam or even Christianity or Judaism.

The psychic says that while his expertise is "ghosts", he believed that the entity infecting this couple was rather a "demon". Demons, according to him, being not human souls but "something else". This he explained, would be why it was something that had followed her from childhood.

As the film went on the occurrences become more frequent and more violent, until eventually the entity seems to possess the woman. This is also something recognized in Islamic tradition. There are stories from the time of the prophet of people being possessed by jinn for various reasons including the possibility that the jinn has fallen in love with the human. Yes jinn do marry and have offspring just like humans, because they do die. So, because jinn also have a mating urge, they sometimes vent these urges on human beings. This was the theory I came up with in regard to this particular film, because as the story progressed it became more and more clear that the entity was not trying to harm the woman, but rather seemed to want to separate the woman from her boyfriend, and eventually seemed to want to physically harm the man. Ultimately of course, it did.

While the movie is fictitious, the situation described in it does happen. In the case of this couple, they waited too long to seek professional help, and it ended in the death of the woman's boyfriend, and the disappearance of the woman herself. Ultimately it is only a movie, and lately it seems that movies about the paranormal are common. We as Muslims, should remind ourselves that Allah, God Almighty gives us the information we need to deal with these situations. We may not know everything about them, because we also know that there are a lot of things that Allah has created that we know nothing about, but nonetheless we have the tools in the Qur'an and in the example of the prophet Muhammad to deal with the Jinn when we need to. Our brothers and sisters from amongst the Jinn, those who submit themselves to Allah (i.e. Muslims), largely leave us alone, but it is the jinn who are devious and evil that will make contact with us; ultimately only for the purpose to distract us from remembrance of God and obeying His will.

I for one found the movie entertaining not only for the "scream" factor, but also because it served as a nice conversation piece for me and my wife about the importance of having knowledge of the Jinn. I hope it does for you as well.

...And Allah Knows Best...