Posts Tagged ‘religion’

It was never about them and us. It’s just us.

September 12, 2011 3 comments

I feel it’s quite fitting that I’m sat here writing this just after Ramadan: a month of reflection and prayer. The more I think about how the world has changed in the past decade, the more I feel that there were lessons to be learnt that weren’t.

Before 9/11, I felt that most people simply looked at Islam as another religion. After 9/11, this has changed considerably. Still, I have found that my Islam has been strengthened by the increased media spotlight on Muslims in the West. Like many Muslims, I felt the need to defend my religious identity that has been under constant attack ever since. Muslims on campuses and in society at large have been saying: “We are like you. Islam is peaceful. Complex socio-political factors have driven some fringe elements to commit barbaric acts. But they don’t represent us. This is not our religion. Please don’t judge a billion and a half people on the actions of a few.”

I have felt the need to educate myself about Islam first. How can I tell others if I haven’t got the answers myself? Time and time again, I read comments under YouTube videos and blog posts about how the moderate majority of Muslims have not been vocal enough in their condemnation of terrorism. I always think to myself, why should I have to prove that I am against terrorism more than anybody else? I have nothing to do with those 19 hijackers. I’m telling you that Islam does not teach that and then I still have to apologise? Apologising implies that I have to take responsibility for their actions. More Muslims have died at the hands of extremists than non-Muslims. Mini 9/11s happen regularly in some countries. Muslims also died on 9/11. And think about the thousands of civilians who have died in the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq. Do we even know their names? I am not trying to take anything away from the losses suffered by the families of 9/11 victims. I just wish that we didn’t have so many double standards. Why have their legacies been allowed to be used for such politicised agendas?

That’s not the point anyway but these are just some of the things that pop into my head when Muslims are looked at with suspicion in the post-9/11 world. Starting my studies at University in 2004 was when I began to feel like I needed to do something. Being part of the Islamic Society on campus made me aware of the work that needed to be done. There were no two ways about it. Islam had a bad rep. As I have said before in a previous post, Islam is and always will be beautiful but it is Muslims who have managed to make something beautiful into something so misunderstood. Thankfully, I have never had any verbal abuse directed at me but I have read about hate crimes against people, sometimes just because people think they look like Muslims.

Another thing has really bugged me. Since when has every man and his dog been an expert on such complex aspects of Islamic jurisprudence as jihad and the Shariah itself? And why do the most misinformed and sensationalist “experts” get all the airtime? Because it sells in this post-9/11 age. It’s as if extremists on both sides have hijacked (for want of a better word) the discourse. I’m not a religious scholar but even I can refute the rubbish that you hear in the media about Islam. At first, I could never understand how so many people could all believe the same lies. But it makes sense really. If you have had no real-life experience of dealing with Muslims or if you don’t know any Muslims, it’s kind of understandable. But non-Muslims should not believe everything they read about Islam in the media. Especially when the people putting forward the “facts” are sensationalists.

At the same time, I’m not ignorant enough not to realise that Muslims themselves have a lot to answer for. Why did it take something tragic like 9/11 for us to start coming out and engaging with our wider communities? Before 9/11, Muslim immigrant families were happy to just go about their daily lives and keep their heads down. Now we’ve more or less been forced to come out and educate people about Islam. I have been lucky in that I grew up mainly around non-Muslims: our neighbourhood, the school I went to and thus my best friends. For this reason, I would like to think that at least the people that know me well have a more positive view of Islam. If everybody had a Muslim friend and therefore had a positive experience with Muslims, the islamophobic drivel out there would fall on deaf ears. So Muslims, go out and speak to your neighbours. Stop treading water and make a difference in your communities. Muslims need to be socially relevant here in the West. Come out and support the issues that matter. It is part of our religion to be on the side of justice; be it with the Muslims or against them. Campaign for issues that are affecting us all in our communities here in the UK. Whether it’s student fees, NHS cuts, your local youth club losing funding or feeding the homeless. Come out and show your communities that they are gaining by having Muslims as neighbours. Community spirit is part of our faith. It’s high time we started to show it.

Here is a teaching of the Prophet Muhammad ( صلى الله عليه وسلم) that I want people to know:

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: انصر أخاك ظالما أو مظلوما. قالوا: يا رسول الله، هذا ننصره مظلوما، فكيف ننصره ظالما؟ قال: تأخذ فوق يديه

“The Prophet ( صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, ‘Help your brother when he is the oppressor and when he is oppressed.’ His Companions replied, ‘O Messenger of God, we do understand helping him when he is oppressed, but how can we possibly help him when he is the oppressor? The Prophet replied, ‘Seize him by his hands!” – Sahih al-Bukhari, narrated by Anas bin Malik

Shibli Zaman from summarises the implications for this nicely:

(As a Muslim in the West) I will do as my Prophet has taught me and do everything I can to protect you, but I will not allow you to oppress me and blame me for a deed that was not mine.

Those flying angels, flying out of the World Trade Center and to the next world, deserved more than to be used for the opportunistic political gain of fear mongers. They deserve more than bumper stickers emblazoned with over-marketed slogans of “Never forget” and “Support our troops”. Those slogans are meaningless without action. Let us truly “never forget” and love one another, for the murders of 9/11 were the illegitimate child of hate bred with fear.

Collective punishment is immoral and unjust. I am sorry that such a barbaric act was done in the name of my religion but that is not my religion. If somebody is a lunatic, it doesn’t matter what religion or race or culture they profess to come from, they are still a lunatic.

I’d like to end with a quote from Obama’s speech that he gave on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary last year (David Cameron doesn’t quite have the same effect when he speaks):

From a national security interest, we want to be clear about who the enemy is here. It’s a handful, a tiny minority of people who are engaging in horrific acts, and have killed Muslims more than anybody else.

The other reason it’s important for us to remember that is because we’ve got millions of Muslim Americans, our fellow citizens, in this country. They’re going to school with our kids. They’re our neighbours. They’re our friends. They’re our co-workers.

And, you know, when we start acting as if their religion is somehow offensive, what are we saying to them?

I’ve got Muslims who are fighting in Afghanistan in the uniform of the United States armed services. They’re out there putting their lives on the line for us, and we’ve got to make sure that we are crystal clear, for our sakes and their sakes, they are Americans, and we honour their service.

And part of honouring their service is making sure that they understand that we don’t differentiate between them and us. It’s just us.


The beauty of Ramadan

September 3, 2010 4 comments

This is my first post in absolutely ages. I’m sure nobody has missed my largely pointless ramblings but I felt the urge to write about this beautiful month we find sailing past us.

Ramadan is beautiful. Now, I could end this post there and I wouldn’t feel like I’ve missed anything. However, for the sake of making up for lost time, I’ll continue. While I fast (during daylight hours) I naturally feel at peace. I remember a friend once told me a couple of Ramadans ago that I’m different when I fast. He said that I seem at ease and more content.

The wisdom behind having this period of holding back your desires is substantial. Hunger and thirst are not in themselves the purpose. Rather, the purpose is what follows the hunger and thirst i.e. weakening the desires, extinguishing anger, subduing the soul to a reassured state. If this purpose is not achieved, then fasting is useless as it has no effect besides making you hungry and thirsty.

These days you have close to 1.6 billion people not eating and drinking in the daytime. That’s powerful and it gives Muslims worldwide a sense of family and kinship that underlines the feeling of all Muslims being one family. And when you see people smiling at you whenever you meet them because they feel at peace when fasting, you really don’t want Ramadan to end.

All the ways that I find to waste time the rest of the year simply don’t appeal to me during this month. I feel at peace and I have time to reflect. It’s a blessing that Ramadan was totally during the summer holidays this year. But it’s leaving us so soon. This month when all our Muslim friends become so generous and kind and spend their quiet times praying for forgiveness. A prophetic saying instructs: if somebody shouts at you or insults you, rather than replying, you say “I’m fasting” and you show tolerance and patience.

… I wish every month could be Ramadan.

Mother Teresa knew what she was on about

April 27, 2010 2 comments

This is probably the only actual Mother Teresa quote that I know but it’s one of my favourite quotes full stop. Found written on the wall in Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

A Letter to the Culture that Raised Me

October 10, 2009 Leave a comment

I just thought a lot of people need to read this so I posted the link. Lazy, I know, especially since I haven’t blogged for a while but whatever.

A Letter to the Culture that Raised Me

By Yasmin Mogahed

From Suhaib Webb

Posted using ShareThis

I knew watching Japanese dorama was good for me… (aswell as TED)

July 12, 2009 4 comments

First of all, apologies for sacking off the blog posts recently. Wimbledon happened so I was away for that. Anyway, Tony Robbins gave this TED talk in 2006 and it’s always been one of my favourites as it gives a thought-provoking explanation for a quite subjective issue. As I am currently in the middle of watching プロポーズ大作戦 (a Japanese drama series), and since I recently watched this talk again, I felt the blogger’s urge to… well… blog about the subject. Robbins says that human emotion and inner drive are the most powerful forces in the world due to our minds allowing us to rationalise anything and achieve stuff. If we understand this, we can begin to understand and appreciate the views of other people around us which, let’s face it, as human beings, we haven’t been great at doing. This is something that has probably been highlighted by the “shrinking” of the world and mixing of cultures in the ever-changing global village we live in today.

“The defining factor (in achieving something) is never resources, it’s resourcefulness.” Tony Robbins

What he means here is that if, for example, you don’t have enough money for something, but if you’re creative and determined enough, you find a way to do it anyway. That’s why he calls human emotion the ultimate resource. This is one of the take-home messages from the talk and if you think about it, it’s a very positive view of the world. I guess that’s one of the reasons why I love this talk. One of the best bits is Robbins high-fiving Al Gore in the front row after they joke about the Supreme Court being one such resource.

Our mate, Lance

Our mate, Lance

An awesome example of the power of human emotion is one that he uses, Lance Armstrong. The guy won 7 straight Tour-de-France titles after his diagnosis of testicular cancer, something he was unable to do even once (let alone seven times!) before his illness. This can be put down to his new-found emotional fitness and psychological strength after people put a barrier in front of him. You can either say God is punishing you or you can say that God is giving you the opportunity to succeed against adversity so you either see it as the beginning of something positive or ending with something negative.

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Trials and tribulations always seem bad at first but if people come through them, don’t you always here them say that they are a better person for it? Maybe I am over-simplifying it but it fits in completely with my Islamic understanding of hardship. As a Muslim, I have been brought up to believe that God knows best and so everything happens for a reason, even if it is hard to understand for us. Being patient and sticking it out when things get tough is the way to succeed. God will only burden someone with as much hardship as they can take, never more. So if you are really being tested and feel like everything is going against you, God must think very highly of you!

“The beauty in the Islamic approach to difficulties is it teaches you to change your perception of the problem i.e. seeing the glass half full as opposed to half empty. The way Islam does this is by wiping out this (evil) feeling of loneliness by teaching you that God is always with you. This leads you to change your perception of the scenario from being “Oh God, I have a big problem” to being “Oh Problem, I have Almighty God” which gives you confidence, thus putting you in a position of strength.” [Quote from my flatmate, Abdulrahman Alhadithi’s blog]

“When Allah desires good for someone, He tries him with hardships.” [Saying of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), narrated in Sahîh al-Bukhârî]

What Islam is and what it isn’t

April 4, 2009 6 comments

I am by no means a sheikh or Islamic scholar (far from in fact) but i would like to outline a few things with regards to the sanctity of life in Islam, simply to fulfil a personal desire to talk about it because the current world view about Muslims is that they’re all extremists who have apparently hijacked the religion and dont give a rats ass about other people etc. I am stressing the use of the word Muslims here. Islam is Islam in all its beauty but it is Muslims who have managed to turn something beautiful into something so misunderstood. this reminds me of something a new convert to Islam once told me:

I wish I’d known Islam before I knew Muslims so I could have become a Muslim sooner.

Islam gives a complete view of life and reality. I think it is somewhat unique in this respect as it holds everything humans do under the scope of religion and life is viewed as an organic or integrated ensemble and all the different aspects of life are subject to the same guiding principles. The principles of Islamic jurisprudence are meant to govern the whole of human life and there are 5 major objectives of Islamic law that have been underlined as the aims of Islam. These 5 can never be contravened by Muslim or otherwise through any law, legislation or human intervention. They are the protection and promotion of the following:

  • Life
  • Intellect, the mind (for people to create, think, invent, ask and question)
  • Religion (for people to believe freely. Let there be no compulsion in religion – Quran 2:256)
  • Progeny or family
  • Wealth or possessions

Those are the 5 objectives of Islam, which are in place to facilitate the improvement and perfection of the conditions of human life on earth. Our concern here is the protection of life. The sanctity of life is declared repeatedly and most categorically in the Holy Quran. One example of such a verse is:

If any one slew a person unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land, it would be as if he slew the whole people; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.

(Al-Maeda 5:32)

To kill one innocent human being is like killing the whole of humanity and to save a human life amounts to saving the whole of mankind. Is there a better way of emphasising the sanctity of human life than this? Does this sound like something that would inspire people to do the kinds of things that have been done in the name of Islam?

Islam should not be judged by the bad practice of Muslims. Islam simply is not what a lot of people would want us to believe i.e. barbaric and backward, but it is truly something beautiful and I hope we can all, including Muslims, begin to understand this.

Beauty (work by British manga artist, Asia Alfasi)

Beauty (work by British manga artist, Asia Alfasi)

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