Sunday, October 30, 2005

Street Sainthood

Australians tend to regard all asylum-seeking as Muslim. Perhaps it is because many asylum seekers are from Muslim countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Perhaps because many women seeking asylum wear head scarves.

But asylum seeking is part of a long Muslim tradition that began with the Prophet Muhammad. The Islamic calendar commences from the time our Prophet and his companions sought asylum with the people of Yathrib, a town north of the Prophet’s hometown of Makkah.

Among these were many poor and destitute men often too weak or ill to work, who lived on a raised platform in the mosque of the Prophet. They were known as the “As’hab as-Suffah” or “People of the Platform”. They were the homeless, the street people of their day.

A friend who once told me about her brother who lived on the streets. Some months back, I met him for the first time on an inner-city street. It was an unusual and accidental encounter.

I had just parked my car near the intersection of Elizabeth and Cleveland Streets in Strawberry Hills. It was almost midday, and I was meeting a colleague for lunch at our favourite Lebanese restaurant.

He was standing near a shopping trolley containing bottles of water and different kids of soaps. He was babbling away in conversation with people I couldn’t see. He then approached me, holding a wet window cleaner.

“Can I clean your windscreen, Sir?”

Before I could say no, he was already onto the second window. Within 5 minutes, the windows of my humble Daihatsu hatchback were sparkling.

I asked him his name. “My name’s As, short for Aslam”.

I stayed with Aslam for a while. We looked an unusual pair, me in my business suit and Aslam in his t-shirt, trackies and sneakers with no socks. He told me he’d been wiping windscreens for a couple of years. He answered my questions and those of others. It seemed like he was talking to people I couldn’t see.

Aslam told me he stayed at Matthew Talbot Hostel sometimes. MTH is a hostel run by the Catholic Church which serviced hundreds of homeless men.

Of course, the Hostel cannot accommodate all of the many thousands of homeless people, most of whom suffer from untreated psychiatric illnesses and have been turned away by their families. These men can often be found sleeping on park benches or outside churches.

Yet even the most unwell of people have dignity and pride. I felt inspired watching Aslam approach people confidently and sell his services. He didn’t insist on drivers offering him tips.

“I just wanna do something useful”, Aslam told me.

Later, my colleague finally arrived for lunch. I told him about Aslam, and we could see him from the front window of the restaurant cleaning away. My colleague was of Lebanese background, and suggested that perhaps Aslam had some kind of Arab or Muslim background.

He also told me the words “Aslam” and “Muslim” both come from the same Arabic root-word which means to surrender and find peace. Standing with Aslam watching him content with a few dollars and his dignity intact made me feel a strange peace.

In most religious and legal traditions, the mentally ill are regarded as without blame. In Islamic traditions, the mentally ill are not subject to the law whilst affected by their illness. A person who lives and dies whilst in a state of mental illness is a veritable saint.

Islamic tradition ascribes the highest spiritual states to the homeless. The spiritual tradition of Islam, known as Sufism, is named after the People of the “Suffah”, referring to a platform in the Prophet’s Mosque where the homeless were accommodated.

The Prophet Muhammad is reported as spending much of his time with a women suffering from schizophrenia. She would take him by the hand to an old ruined house she squatted in. He would sit and listen to her babbling. He would ask her to pray for him.

A Prophet asking a schizophrenic to pray for him? Why? Because he knew that her prayers would always be answered. Because this woman was a veritable saint.

Christ spend much of his time with the socially stigmatised – sex workers, tax collectors, the poor and homeless. He gave them his time and his love. He realised that true greatness arises from service to those less fortunate.

“Beware the prayer of someone you oppress, for their prayers reach God without any barrier.” People damned by society are the truly oppressed. When they pray against you, watch out. But when they wish you well, expect to find peace and joy.

I found that after spending just 15 minutes watching Aslam. I gave him $20, a small price to pay for peace of mind. And if he ever reads this, I hope St Aslam prays for my soul.


© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Pakistan Earthquake

Earthquake Donations:

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And donate to Edhi Foundation

Observations of relief operations: The best and the worst.

(originally published in Pakistani English daily Dawn )

By Ayaz Amir

GO see for yourselves, as I have done this past week, and you would repeat Dickens’s opening salvo in A Tale of Two Cities: it was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

Only in our case it has been a tale of two countries: the native half of Pakistan at its best, the instruments of Pakistani governance at their worst. The dichotomy couldn’t be starker nor the lines of this divide more clearly drawn across the very soul of Pakistan.

Pakistanis in the mass never had much faith or trust in their governments before. But whatever was left of this feeling lies buried with the other debris of this earthquake.

Why are Pakistanis in their thousands willing to travel all the way to Balakot or Muzaffarabad to deliver relief goods but reluctant to hand over anything to any government agency? Why are they willing to give to such organizations as Jamaat-ut-Dawaah, the Jamaat-i-Islami’s Al-Khidmat or the Edhi Foundation but not to the President’s Relief Fund? Because of this profound distrust which has only deepened after seeing the government’s response to this crisis.

From Hazara to Azad Kashmir voices arising from the deepest recesses of the heart will tell you how grateful they are to the people of Pakistan who came unbidden in their hour of need. I heard this in Balakot amidst the ruins and I heard this in Muzaffarabad. But as God is my witness in all this wide arc of disaster not one word, not a single one, did I hear in praise of the government or the army.

Having been in uniform myself, I say this with a heavy heart. Why have things come to this? In 1971 wherever we went people greeted us, waved at us, gave us food and offered help. Helping the army was considered a privilege and even when Dhaka fell and our eastern command laid down its arms, they didn’t blame us soldiers, they said we had been stabbed in the back. People held Yahya Khan and his coterie (and their serious tippling) responsible for the debacle, not the army as a whole. It all seems so long ago.

That the government was slow to respond is by now generally accepted. But that’s in the past and there’s no use crying over it. What is alarming, and quite difficult to understand is the government’s continuing failure to treat this disaster on a war footing. It is bigger, far bigger than the ‘65 war, bigger than 1971. But you wouldn’t guess this from the designer suits or relaxed countenances of Pakistani officialdom.

Balakot and Muzaffarabad may be overflowing with relief goods but much of it is not reaching the mountains which still remain cut off. The road from Balakot to Naran has yet to be opened and it’s not easy given the nature of the terrain. The road from Muzaffarabad to Ath Maqam (close to the Line of Control) has been cleared by army engineers for about 10 or 12 kilometres. The rest of it is still closed. Some trucks (including those of the UN’s World Food Programme) are carrying food as far as they can. For the rest, villagers have to trek across the mountains.

I asked some of the villagers carrying a single bag of flour on their shoulders how long it would take them to reach their villages. One said eight hours, another 16 hours. In Kashmir distance is measured not by kilometres but by the time it takes to reach your destination. Helicopters are the only alternative but there are not enough of them around. You see them flying to and fro but this is far from the Berlin airlift that this disaster actually requires. Our American friends for their part have still not been able to match action to words. They were the ones who could have given us the most helicopters but for some reason — no doubt associated with the ongoing mess of ‘the war on terror’ — have chosen not to.

Just in the past few days USAid and the Pakistan government have signed an agreement worth eight million dollars for the ‘capacity-enhancing’ of the national and provincial assemblies. We may need more helicopters but the US embassy has still has its heart set on some of its cherished priorities. Bemusing but there it is.

This crisis has demonstrated that the Punjab government is in a class of its own. Talking of which is there no way known to man to curb the publicity craze of its chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi? Not a day goes by without his public relations guys, surely the most successful PR outfit in the country, writing creative fiction for his greater glory.

When the earthquake struck he was in London and his concern for the victims was so great that instead of returning immediately to Pakistan, as lesser mortals might have done, he flew off straight to Washington where he stayed for a series of medical tests and a round of iftar dinners, his tour lasting 12 days, this when thousands and thousands were trapped in rubble or debris. If there was any higher justice in Pakistan he would be served with a gagging order.

Much the same is true of the rest of the civilian government. Anything by the name of government is not to be seen in the quake-hit areas. But newspapers are full of the exploits of Shaukat Aziz and his army of cabinet ministers. Seen against the backdrop of what has actually happened, this craze for publicity looks positively obscene. If these ministers are up to no good, they can at least spare the nation their antics.

But the question is: if anything by the name of organized government is not visible in the disaster zone, what is? Well, we have received prompt help from abroad and this can be seen with the naked eye: Saudi help, UAE military hospital, Qatar military hospital, field hospital from Iran, countless western NGOs, Helping Hands from the UK very active, WFP as I’ve already said, the French seen here and there, the US delivering supplies at Chaklala and, from what I hear, being amongst the most efficient in unloading the planes — the Americans coming equipped with their own forklifts and having enough soldiers not to need any help from the Pakistan authorities — tented villages from Turkey (brave, generous Turkey), the Chinese, doctors from Taiwan, doctors from Indonesia, a large medical contingent from Cuba, some world-class surgeons from Russia (at the Children’s Hospital in Islamabad I was told that the Russians were just marvellous — they arrived at the airport at four in the morning and insisted that they be taken straight to the operation theatre, working with so much commitment and singlemindedness that they seemed scarcely made of flesh and blood) and so many other countries that it’s hard to list all of them. To understand the full scope of this assistance, you have to see it with your own eyes.

And then the Pakistani nation which in the midst of this crisis seems to have rediscovered itself. Knowing the myriad rivers of corruption which run through everyday life in Pakistan, you wouldn’t have considered this possible but it has happened and it is unbelievable, a tide of assistance channelled to Balakot and Muzaffarabad by a river of people acting on blind impulse.

Much of this assistance was disorganized and chaotic but that perhaps is what was needed in those first few days when people in the stricken areas were just sitting out in the open, grateful for whatever they got. But now the relief effort is more organized. And guess who is in the forefront of this organizing? Islamist organizations such as Jamaat-ut-Daawah (the latest incarnation of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed’s famous Lashkar-i-Taiba), Al-Khidmat of course, Al Badr, Al Rasheed Trust, Al Mustafa Trust and the MQM. At the Muzaffarabad Press Club, its building all fallen, the highest praise was reserved for Jamaat-ut-Dawaah and the MQM.

Indeed the MQM’s relief camp, which is the base camp for its relief operations in Azad Kashmir, is set up just in front of the Press Club. I saw it and was moved by the way they were handling the relief effort, their volunteers going to the outlying areas, there giving chits to those in need, and, on the basis of those chits, handing out relief goods. There was a huge stock of medicines and food inside while doctors were attending to the sick. I was told that trucks carrying relief supplies were coming from Karachi every day. For the first time in my life (and I hope it is the last) I felt like saying, “Jiye Altaf”.

The Jamaat-ut-Dawaah’s camp to the north of the city, on a piece of sloping ground by the River Neelum, is a picture of precision and organization. Tents for the injured, about 40 tents for displaced persons, a mobile surgical unit in which when I arrived a team of Indonesian doctors was performing surgery, a mountain of relief goods, and again a very methodical system of relief distribution. Inside one of the tents was 9-year-old Akbar Jahan from village Padgam who had been rescued after lying trapped in a mudslide for 15 days. Withered and thin as a reed, she was complaining of pain in one of her arms, but was otherwise all right. Who says miracles don’t happen?

Dawaah volunteers were going to inaccessible areas and there assessing relief needs. Again on the basis of the chits they issued, the recipients could collect relief from the base camp. When I was out on the road to Ath Maqam and asked my vehicle to turn around because I found the precipice falling sharply to the Neelum River a bit too scary, I saw a band of young men in the distance marching briskly in our direction. With good walking boots on and carrying sleeping bags, they looked very tough and kept almost racing up the slope even as I asked them which organization they were from. “Jamaat-ut-Dawaah,” came the muffled answer. So they hadn’t been bluffing when they told me their boys went up into the mountains. I don’t much care for Hafiz Saeed’s theology, much too stark and cut-and-dried for my taste. But by God his boys are impressive.

Next to the Al Khidmat camp, again by the banks of the swift-flowing Neelum, I chanced upon another discovery, a very well-laid-out relief camp, guarded by boys from the Hizbul Mujahideen (the largest of the Kashmiri resistance outfits led by long-beard Maulvi Salahuddin), obviously rich with relief supplies, and doling out relief in a very organized manner. It turned out this was the base camp of the Sialkot-based Mutayab-ul-Islam Foundation. Again assistance was being given on the basis of chits handed out by Foundation volunteers trekking to cut-off villages. Each relief package contained flour, rice, ghee, etc, a new blanket, new (not second hand) winter jackets, (proper jackets that you wouldn’t be ashamed of wearing) and, better believe this, shoes according to size. I actually heard them asking what size of foot before providing the required size.

Tough-looking Farid Khan Tareen (the last person with whom I would like to get into a fistfight) said that the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry and individual Sialkot industrialists were sending these supplies by truck regularly and, Alhamdolillah, there was no danger of the supplies running short. More glory to the city of Sialkot.

This is the Hamas phenomenon happening in Pakistan, organized authority (in the case of Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, in our case, the organs of government) able to do very little, while the burden of social work (in this case relief work) is taken up by Islamist organizations. What this portends, I don’t know.

Can anyone please explain this? The total number of patients after the quake in both civil and military hospitals in Abbottabad, Mansehra, Balakot and Muzaffarabad, at any one time, was never more than 8,000-10,000. And yet most of these patients were being fed and provided beds and beddings not by the government, not by the army but by foreign and local charity. In Mansehra District Headquarters Hospital, the first large tents were set up by some French organization (I couldn’t get the name), beds were provided by Al Khidmat, food by the citizens of Mansehra while the first batch of outside surgeons, led by Dr Ayub Tanoli, came from the Jinnah Post-graduate Medical Centre, Karachi.

Staff there was full of praise for these doctors, indeed saying that when doom lay around them, they kept the hospital going. Lest I forget, I was told there were three Hindu doctors among the Karachi team.

In the Ayub Medical College in Abbottabad where patients were lying outside in tents because the building had been declared unsafe, tents and medicine had been provided, I am sure among others, by Helping Hands (UK). Sitting at the tented distribution centre were volunteers from Sargodha.

The private Jamila Shaheen Hospital in Abbottabad was full of quake victims (130-140). Looking after them was a team of young Pakistan-origin doctors from the UK. I tried putting a few questions to them but they had no time to talk and went about their business in what seemed like a mad rush. I was told they worked from eight in the morning until well past midnight. For iftar they took only a single date and a packet of fruit juice so as to remain alert in the operating theatre.

The fathers of three young kids — Abdul Wali from Kanar Sharif, Kala Dhaka, Kulsoom from Alai, Batagram, Daanish from Sangar, Balakot — told me that doctors at the Military Hospital, Abbottabad, and Ayub Medical College had advised various amputations but they refused and instead came here. The team of UK doctors operated on all of them and saved their hands, feet, etc. Daanish, especially, was operated on for seven hours at a stretch and his hand was saved.

I was told that a few days back a Dr Nadeem had come from Karachi and a Dr Craig from the UK. About Craig I was told that he cleaned floors and bathrooms himself.

Is any of this important? Perhaps it is. While I was writing this column I placed a call to the office of Director-General, Surgery, at the Combined Military Hospital, Rawalpindi, and also at the private clinic of CEO of all Allied Hospitals in Rawalpindi and Principal Rawalpindi Medical College, saying I wanted a private appointment with the doctors. At both places I was given appointments. I was overcome by shame. Here are doctors coming to help us from all over our world and here our renowned doctors, on the state’s payroll, can’t leave their private practices aside even during this grave hour when calamity has struck the nation.

No one will believe a word about government credibility unless, immediately, an announcement is made cancelling (1) the F-16 deal which we don’t need and at this juncture certainly can’t afford; (2) the new GHQ being built in Islamabad which again we don’t need; and (3) the New Murree Project being pushed by Pervaiz Elahi, a project which will ruin forever what remains of the splendour of the Murree Hills. This earthquake has cut mountains in half, it has sent entire villages into the valleys and rivers below, but has been unable to cause even a minor dent in the hearts of some people.

But as I say, the best and the worst lie close together. As we left Muzaffarabad, there was a sight to warm the cockles of even a withered heart. Directing traffic at a tunnel through which only a single line of vehicles could pass was, at one end, Qamar, student of class nine, and, at the other, young Munir, all of ten years. They were doing it beautifully and when I stopped to enquire, Munir, looking up at me, said, “Uncle, the military police were doing duty all day and now they have just gone for a few minutes to take iftar.” Dabbing my eyes with a handkerchief, I patted them on the head and getting into my car sped away into the darkness.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

For the love of Islam, fight the terrorists

(First published in The New Zealand Herald, 04 October 2005)

Different reasons are given for the Bali terrorist attacks. Australian Prime Minister John Howard describes it as an attack on democratic Indonesia, an attempt to destabilise the country and punish it for adopting a more democratic model.

South Australian magistrate Brian Deegan, who lost his 22-year-old son Josh in the 2002 Bali bombing, says it was an attack on Australian foreign policy.

I have my own theory which does involve a short history lesson. I believe the Bali bombing was an attack on Indonesian Islam.

Some 700 years ago, Yemeni traders brought Islam to this part of the world, the centre of Southeast Asian trade.

The various indigenous merchants had no system of accounting and the Yemenis introduced the systems still in use today including resolving commercial disputes based upon sharia law. In Indonesia, when people think of sharia, they don't think of chopping hands and stoning adulterers. They think of banking and finance and trade law.

Most Yemeni traders came from a tribe known as the Bani Alawi, direct descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. In the towns and villages around Penang and Aceh, you will find more direct descendants of the Prophet than in Saudi Arabia.

And the People of the House (as Muslims refer to the Prophet's descendants) are known for certain qualities. They are scholarly. They are soft-hearted and compassionate. They are calm. They are spiritual. They inspire love, not hatred.

The Yemeni traders were Sufis who brought a kind of Islam that focuses on spiritual purification and social reform. Sufis work with people of all faiths in an effort to bring peace and prosperity to the world.

In New York, a Sufi imam named Feisal Abdul Rauf regularly hosts dinners with Jewish and Christian New Yorkers. In India, the poor and depressed of all faiths and no faith find refuge at the tombs of Sufi saints. Sufism is a grassroots religion in just about every Islamic country, including Afghanistan and Iraq.

The terrorists' version of Islam has no room for Sufis. The terrorist religion is about war, not peace. It is about hatred, not love. Sufis teach that you bring people closer to you and your faith through love and service to others. Terrorists teach that you convert people by killing them, by bringing tears to the eyes of their families and loved ones, by driving fear into their communities.

The terrorist vision of Islam is winning no friends in the world's largest Islamic community.

The latest bombing has taken place in the final week of the sacred Islamic month of Sha'ban. Orthodox Sunni Indonesians see this month as a time to prepare for the beginning of the sacred month of Ramadan.

Traditionally, the shedding of blood during Ramadan and its two preceding months is strictly forbidden. The terrorists have flouted this taboo which finds its source in the Koran, the scriptures regarded by millions of Indonesians as the literal word of God.

Terrorists bring out the worst in themselves and others. Orthodox Sufi Islam brought peace to this region of the world. Today, the terrorist ideology masquerading as Islam is bringing war and violence and tears to the region. Those who care about Islam should be at the forefront of fighting terror.

* Irfan Yusuf is a Sydney-based industrial lawyer and occasional lecturer in the Department of Politics at Macquarie University in Sydney.

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Saturday, October 22, 2005

For Emmanuel Levinas

I do not take upon myself the fate of the Other
Out of duty or
Legal obligation
Or to gain a sense of self-satisfaction

Because reasoned argument commends it
Or theocratic decree demands it

I live, and learn through experience

Nor do I give your suffering meaning
By sharing your pain
Implicating injustice in a grand plan
Blaming humanity’s crimes on The Creator

I look on, and scream in silence

Nor do I imagine you to be
By your presence
A fragment of Merciful essence

And my acts a ritual of prostration before
Your purifying lamp

I am real, and worship in secret

My love
Is above laws, reason, duty, even being

Inimitable, transcendent

Wholly unneeded
Yet absolutely necessary

Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995) was a Lithuanian-born social theorist whose writings on ethics have influenced a number of contemporary thinkers, including the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman. Although much of his working life was spent in France, Levinas studied with and was influenced by Husserl and Heidegger. The spiritual dimension of his writings was also influenced by his readings of the Talmud.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

From Ground Zero

A moving first hand account of the earthquake in Pakistan.

Donate to Islamic Relief

And donate to Edhi Foundation

Salaam Alikum,

We are back from Azad Kashmir. It was a good trip - good in the sense that we came back with a feeling that a difference is being made - no matter how small there is slight progress.

I had always wanted to see Neelam Valley and Kashmir quite appropriately dubbed a piece of heaven on earth by the British.

Unfortunately what I saw was the Death Valley. The past one week my faith in just about everything has been tested to its extreme.

Muzafrabad is dead. There is no building standing in this capital city. The sole 2 buildings that survived will be brought down by the government in a day or two because they are unstable. Because it rained - I had seen blood flow out of crumbled buildings in a thick maroon paste as if the buildings themselves are bleeding.

Something that aches the most all the children are dead. The classes started at 8:00 that fateful morning and those inside were all crushed. The smell of death plagues the city start to end. We
had to walk a lot no matter were you go and what you do - you smell them and after a while it becomes a part of you. As I write this I can still smell it even though I am home now and have showered 3 times and tossed those clothes out.

If anyone wants to see what the Judgment Day would look like I say take a trip to Muzafrabad. I have seen relatives not recognize each other. I have seen ground rejecting the dead - as there is no more

I have seen aches, pains, and misery like no one can imagine. People walk the streets like zombies with fear and misery in their eyes.

For three days following the earthquake there was no Azan or Namaz in the city - three days later the first Azan was given and people started screaming everywhere. There were sounds of Allah-O-Akbar
and La'illaha every where. There sounds of screams, cries, and shouts. Everyone ran to streets some fell on the ground in sajood to pray (maybe) or just were over powered - that I do not know. Others cried and hit their heads. People hugged people and cried.

In this past one week I have wanted to cry uncontrollably . . . but the people everywhere in Dheerkot, Bagh, Muzafrabad, and Balakot (and all other places too I am sure) expressed such metal in the wake of this crisis that they have kept themselves strong and all the out of towners as well.


I would give anything up but not this. This is what I saw:

Allah tested this nation by throwing world's 4th largest earthquake at us and this nation stood-up saying Allah-o-Akbar. From Karachi to Muzafrabad there is an ocean of conveys taking aid - you can not imagine in your wildest imaginations how this nation has responded.

People are virtually gambling on their lives to get aid through. When the ground shakes from quakes and after shocks Pakistanis hold hands and stand firm and say loudly Allah-O-Akbar, we came from you and to you we will return.

When rocks the size of cars rain from mountains Pakistanis walk steadily saying Allah-O-Akbar, give us strength to walk. When mass graves are dug and tens of dead are lowered for eternity Pakistanis say - Allah-O-Akbar, forgive us even if we are not worthy of your mercy.

When rubble is moved and dead bodies of innocent children are found I heard Pakistani mothers cry and people say "do not cry we do not understand His wisdom He is all knowing and all powerful"

Today I am PROUD TO BE A PAKISTANI. Today we are a NATION tied together by one religion Islam.

But things are not well. The destruction is huge 1/4th of Pakistan suffers. Medicines are needed, food stock is moderate to fair, tents and blankets are badly needed.

We shall go again on Wednesday. We have found a good place to put up our camps in Muzafrabad.
Those who have helped . . . I would say dig deeper. Those who have not I would say please do not wait. Do what ever you can with whom ever you can.

Here is basic info for you: Muzafrabad the largest city in Kashmir was home to 500,000. 35,000 casualties, the rest 465,000 needs roughly 30KG of food / week which means - 14,000 tons of food has to be sent every week till the situation comes into control. The most a truck can take is 5 Tons and most trucks can only do 1.5 to 3 tons. Lifesaving medicines are urgently needed. I can not give you any estimate on their need. Allah Hafiz


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Announcing New Online Zine: Hot Coals

Introducing Hot Coals, an online zine published weekly by The Abu Dharr Collective.

The Collective hopes to make Hot Coals a popular online resource for Muslims striving for social justice, peace, beauty and spirituality in our lives and interactions with each other. We hope that collectively this site grows and becomes something inspiring and stimulating, and it becomes part of the growing movement(s) against oppression (zulm) amongst Muslims and beyond.

Inshallah, our forum intends to bring together community members, activists and thinkers who are committed to the realization of a genuinely Tawhidi society, wherein all of God's peoples and creations can be liberated from zulm, bondage, and marginalization.

For more information, or if you would like to submit an article, please write to us: hotcoals_articles@yahoo.com

The Abu Dharr Collective

Ahead of you are days which will require endurance, in which showing endurance will be like holding hot coals - Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings upon him)

The Abu Dharr Collective
Junaid S. Ahmad
Fahd Ahmed
Naima Bouteldja
Saliha DeVoe-Hijazi
Farid Esack
Anna Ghonim
Na’eem Jeenah
Maha Noureldin
Trish Kanous

Sunday, October 16, 2005

From Hiroshima to London

Imam Zaid Shakir gave this talk at the Zaytuna Institute on the anniversary of the nuclear bombing on Hiroshima.

Zaid Shakir discusses some very important issues including the role of Muslims in the United States, the discourse (or lack of) on "terrorism," and proposes that we begin to consider, and be against *all* forms of political violence against civilians. Such a discourse would allow all people of goodwill to take a stand against this kind of violence.

A very important, and highly recommended talk - well worth listening to - especially in light of the daily pressures on Muslims to just keep on "condemning."

You can listen to web streaming (real audio) by clicking here. or download the mp3 version by clicking here.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Gary Edwards Talks Up Ramadan

(written on the eve of Ramadan ...)

Gary Edwards used to be a Southern Baptist. He grew up on a farm in the deep south of the United States. He then went to university where he discovered an English translation of the Qur’an. Life just hasn’t been the same for Gary since.

He went to Saudi Arabia to study Arabic. He later arrived in Istanbul and spent 10 years learning from a scholar and sufi named Mahmud Effendi. Gary then decided to marry and sort-of change his name. To most Muslims, he is known as Shaykh Naeem Abdul Wali.

Tonight is the final night of Gary’s visit to Australia. He flies out tomorrow insh’Allah (i.e. God-willing) to Arizona and back to the small Muslim community of Tuscon (I hope I spelt it right). It has been an eventful visit which has included a weekend “Deen-intensive” and talks at various gatherings and mosques.

I hope to be meeting up with Gary tonight. I might see if he has time to contribute to this blog every now and then. But in the meantime, I will remind myself and the rest of us what Gary said about Ramadan the other night at a gathering in Wentworthville.

Each Friday night, around 80 young couples and families gather at Wentworthville in Western Sydney for a “suhbat” (lesson and company) with Dr Mohsin Labban. Dr Labban is a retired academic and economist who has worked across the world teaching and consulting. Unlike most retirees, Dr Labban has not quite retired. He continues to teach and research, though his focus is on more spiritual topics.

When a visiting speaker arrives, Dr Labban regularly allows the speaker access to his audience. Gary Edwards was no exception.

One of Sydney’s most active volunteers and activists decided she wanted to ask a question. She somehow managed to get the attention of the man with the microphone and asked perhaps the most relevant question of the night.

“Every year Ramadan comes and goes. I feel like it slips through my fingers, and I haven’t taken full advantage of it. What would you suggest I do this Ramadan to get a greater amount of spiritual benefit?”

Shaykh Gary thought for a short while and then answered:

“I suggest you fast.”

We were all stunned by this statement of the obvious. Of course we are going to fast during Ramadan.

(Well, at least those of us in good health will be fasting. Others have health commitments which force them to take medication and make it impossible to fast.)

Shaykh Gary went onto explain what he meant. This is what I remember him saying in a few nutshells:

a. Fasting isn’t just about not eating and drinking. It isn’t just about starving yourself.
b. Fasting also isn’t just about refraining from sex either.
c. Fasting is also a state of mind. You take one month out during the year of 12 months to focus on your soul. That means you cut off from your physical appetites for part of the time.
d. There are plenty of people who fast but gain nothing except hunger and thirst and increased sexual tension.
e. The best way to prepare for the month is to prepare from now. Try fasting a few days now. Try doing extra prayers and extra remembrance of God. We are fortunate to have the benefit of being able to recite God’s Names. If we deprive ourselves of the benefit of this facility, we only have ourselves to blame.

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Review: Sherman Jackson's Islam and the Blackamerican

Islam and the Black American: Looking Toward the Third Resurrection by Sherman Jackson. Oxford University Press (2005). ISBN 0-19-518081-X. 235 pages. Hardcover.

This book is available from Astrolabe (www.astrolabe.com).

Click here for a direct link to the book .

I was in Atlanta in 1991 when I heard a Louis Farakhan tape in which he said something like, “We did not stop riding the back of the bus to get on the back of the camel!” And, later, around that time frame, I remember reading a line condemning African Muslim hujjaj (pilgrims to Makka) passing the bones of their ancestors to worship at Arab shrines. (I think it was from Molefi Asante’s book Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change.) Lastly, I remember reading an article by Louis Brenner about the manner in which a scholar taught the attributes of God to common people in West Africa. And Dr. Jackson wrote a book which brought together all of these experiences for me.

Click here to read more

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A reflection on disasters

Risama writes on her blog:

One of the greatest mysteries of life is why do bad things happen. We've been around, as a human species, for many years, and yet there seems to be no answer that can solve the riddle.

click here to read more

Donate to Islamic Relief

And donate to Edhi Foundation

… two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl …

Ramadan is a month of worship, of regaining your lost or faded spiritual vision. Our souls have eyes to recognise good and evil. But as we are immersed in the material world and the challenges of daily life, we lose that vision.

Food and drink and sex are not intrinsically or inherently bad. In fact, they are necessary. But it is also necessary to deprive one’s self of these essentials at least once in a while. For Muslims, that happens during the 29 or 30 days of Ramadan.

During this time, we have to refrain from eating and drinking and sexual intercourse between sunrise and sunset. We deprive ourselves of these essentials and suspend our appetites for part of the day for a whole month. A slice of each year is taken up with this exercise.

My problem is that I have to eat. Even during during Ramadan. And I have to drink. I have to have food and fluid in my body or else my medication will kill my kidneys and dehydrate me.

Both religion and common sense dictate that I cannot fast. If I fast, I will kill myself. And notwithstanding what some officials from certain so-called Islamic groups teach, suicide is strictly forbidden.

Imam Jafar as-Sadiq, the spiritual preceptor of Imam Abu Hanifa (perhaps the greatest jurist the world, if not just the Islamic world, has ever seen), quoted the Prophet Muhammad as stating:

“God says: Fasting is for Me and I am its reward.”

When we fast, God rewards us with spiritual vision that we can use to see or witness God’s greatness. I feel like I am deprived of this vision. My spirit is blurred.

I had the same feeling around 11 months ago. At that time, I was able to share that feeling with someone I had been friends with for the previous 11 months. Yet it was only during Ramadan that I realised just how deep that friendship was.

People who befriend each other for God’s sake are said to enjoy the shade of God’s throne on the Day of Judgment when there will be no shade. I hope and pray that Jane and I will share that shade. Until that time, we will be two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl.

Jane (I have changed essential details to protect her anonymity) never met her Muslim father. Her father was a descendant of the Bani Alawi tribe, with ancestry meeting the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (the direct descendants of the Prophet Muhammad) at the point of Imam Ali bin Husayn, known as “Zainal Abidin” (“prince of the worshippers”).

But when I met Jane, she wore a short skirt and was serving drinks behind a bar. She could have been Spanish or Portuguese or Polynesian. One day I paid for drinks using my Visa card. Since that day, Jane seemed insistent to befriend me.

Later, she would tell me the reason. “I knew from your name that you were Muslim. My father was Muslim.”

After that, almost each visit involved her picking my brain on the finer points of Islamic culture. Each time I visit the mosque for the nightly “tarawih” prayers, I remember her text message on my phone where she asks “what’s a tarawih?”. I haven’t had a chance to answer her yet.

I hope one day I do have that chance. Because I know she is sick and tired of confusing the hot air of conventional wisdom and spirituality for the cool breeze of her father’s spiritual heritage.

Life has been cruel to Jane. She wants to remain friends, but has to sort so many things out. The last time I spoke with her, I was troubled to hear she felt suicidal and severely depressed.

Of course, I am not responsible for her feelings. And if she doesn’t want my help at this (or indeed at any) stage, that is her choice. But Jane has taught me so many things for which I feel so grateful.

Jane taught me how important it is never to presume things about people. Never to judge a book by its cover. She is living proof of the fact that what really counts is what is in your heart. And she has so much compassion and goodness in her heart.

Jane also taught me that the greatest joy for a Muslim is to discover another Muslim. And if you are like me, a Muslim on the fringes, it is so nice to meet another fringe-dwelling Muslim.

I have been swimming alone in this fishbowl, surrounded by strange creatures and weed and fauna. And then God sent me another soul almost as lost as mine. And I no longer felt alone in this crazy fishbowl.

I often describe Jane as my “Shums”, using the name of the spiritual preceptor of the sufi poet and jurist Mevlana Jelal ad-Din Rumi. Over the years of our friendship, Jane managed to extract plenty of Rumi books from me. She also extracted a DVD, a few CD’s and countless books and pamphlets.

It is a cliché that “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone”. I seriously hope and pray that Jane hasn’t gone and that she will contact me again as she always promised. I hope she can sort out all her stuff, that she can get her shit together and that we can resume from where we left off.

In the meantime, I will miss her dearly and will pray for her. She brought so much joy and peace to me at a time when no one could bring peace. She was my Shums, except that I hope she returns and hangs around in my fishbowl.

How I wish you were here
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year
Running over the same old ground
Look what we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Unto Allah is our return...

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un

click here for more information on the south asian earthquake...

1400 Guatemalans killed in hurricane stan mudslide

An age of chaos?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

My Ramadan Mentor

This Ramadan, there are three things I hope to achieve. The first is to fast all the days when Joel is not at home, with the intention insha Allah of fasting the rest during the year; the second, which has now become something of an imperative given it is 15 years since I said my shahadah, is to learn to read Quranic script; and the third is to begin re-reading the trio of works concerned with the preliminary basics prior to learning tassawuf, written by Idries Shah: Learning How to Learn, Knowing How to Know, and The Commanding Self.

I first discovered Shah at aged 27 - I was an undergrad at the University of Leeds. I became obsessed with him when my interest in the local branch of the Wahhabi cult began to wane; and no less an emotionalist, I engaged with Shah’s writings with the same greed for excitement and wonder. My favourite book from Octagon Press was People of the Secret, which includes a preface by Colin Wilson (say no more). I suspect it was written deliberately to appeal to people – and reveal to them – the self-deception of mistaking thrills for genuine spiritual teaching.

My bubble burst when I began to read criticisms of Shah, which seemed outrageous and damning at the time, but on later sober reflection amount to no more than mud slinging and academic insularity. The darker controversies can be found in Robert Graves’ dairies, for those with an appetite for such things. Shah is still viewed with a degree of disdain by many, but by no means all, Islamic Studies academics. In spite of his critics, an impressive array of highly esteemed academics and writers published on Octagon press, which Shah founded.

Despite the let-down, I wrote my dissertation on Shah, still half in love with him, exploring the cultural relevance of my primitive understanding of his ideas. His controversial status led to a stand-up row with my supervisor. I barely recall what I wrote, but it was probably rubbish and I got a lower second for my bad temper. Yet I have continued to return to Shah’s writings over the years, each time taking something new from them, and each time with a greater belief in Shah as a Sufi teacher. But don’t take my word for it. Real Sufis don’t need a sales pitch.

But what the heck! Shah is the only writer I am aware of who details such a comprehensive psychology of learning as well as a psychology of the false self (nafs-i-ammara or an-nafs al-‘ammāra), in a way which is pertinent to my cultural understandings and which seem a potentially valid preliminary study to serving as a Murid. The fact I am still trying to study his works 15 years after first discovering them is not so much evidence of their power, but of the after effects of a youth spent taking LSD, speed and hash. Young readers be warned!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Fighting for Shums

I must fight on. There is no room for despair. There is no point harming or killing myself out of depression. There are too many people hurting, and also too many arrogant people dishing out the pain.

There are too many of us feeling the pain, groping in the dark, emotionally limping. We feel we march alone, but in fact we march together. We each carry a candle, and all we need is someone to light the match.

So what is my role? Tonight, I realised what it is. This Ramadan, I have decided to become the village idiot.

I am limping emotionally. But I have certain skills which are not sources of pride but reasons to be thankful to my Creator. And the source of my pain, the absence of my Shums-i-Kiwi, will make me fight on.

Rumi had a Shums from Tabriz, a Persian-speaking Turkman who opened his eyes to the wonders of Divine love. Rumi was a dry black-letter lawyer. He knew the legal system of his land almost inside out. He had every reason to stick to his path.

But at heart, Rumi was an asylum seeker, a refugee from the Mongol hordes. He saw his family massacred as they fled from Afghanistan. These images must have haunted him during the decades that followed. Shums’ arrival in Konya, Rumi’s adopted country, must have brought all those images back to him.

I am no Rumi. My legal knowledge and understanding is hardly anything compared to his. And my Shums is no asylum-seeker. But when I met her, she brought so many of my haunting childhood memories back to me.

I came to Australia when I was six months old. I grew up speaking and eating and drinking and thinking and learning and living Australian. My local member of parliament is today’s Australian Prime Minister. Yet today I feel like a second class citizen in my own land.

I grew up as a dark-skinned kid who was teased at school, often bullied. I was told to go back to where I came from. No one could say my name properly. I grew up in a state where I only knew I was Muslim because people would tease me for being different.

Where were my parents during all this? My father was away mostly. I rarely saw him. My mother could hardly speak English. She was too concerned about my learning a language I could never use at school and amongst my friends.

My Shums-i-Kiwi told me she experienced the same thing. When she spoke of her absent father who gave her an identity, a reason to be different that she never understood, it was like she forced me to recognise who I was.

We were people in no-man’s land. We had Muslim background, Muslim names but were for all intents and purposes non-Muslims. We were teased and mocked and jeered wherever we went.

My Shums never even understood what her faith was, except that she got told that Muslims shouldn’t drink. And she knew a few words and phrases like “selamat hari raya”. Hers was a clumsy Islam. A half-baked Islam.

So was mine. I always thought that to be Muslim, your mum had to wear a sari. I was taught that Muslims celebrate Divali and Yom Kippur and Holi and Eid. Muslims were people with brown skin who spoke Urdu or Hindi or Punjabi. The Iraqi Jewish lady who used to give me free ice creams and used to smile when we would go to Bondi Beach to buy our spices was Muslim. The aunties who taught me the Ramayana story were Muslims.

My Shums used to love her Muslim identity even if she never knew what it was. She would argue with people who offended her and teased her about her presumed identity. She may have known more about the Dalai Lama or Deepak Chopra than about her great ancestor Muhammad. But she felt the same passion that he did.

I also debated and argued with people. Ahmed Deedat was my hero at school. Later, I felt powered by people like Edward Said and Ali Shariati. The latter’s essays, published as “Marxism & Other Western Fallacies”, drove me into the waiting arms of social conservatism. I became a big “C” Conservative because I hated Marxism and what Marxists were doing in Afghanistan.

But even though I was still discovering who I was, at heart I was an Aussie. I always barracked for Australia in the cricket. I still wear my Wallabies jersey everywhere. I am an Aussie, just as my Shums is at heart a Kiwi.

Yet now I feel emotionally compromised. I feel depressed. I have no idea where Shums is. I don’t know if she is alright. But I do know that there is no point being overrun by despair.

I have to stand up and start marching. They have forced my hand.

They? Who are they? They are the same big “C” Conservatives that I fought next to. They have decided to fight against the values that I hold dear, even if I don’t quite understand what these values are. Even if they, the big “C” conservatives, don’t understand what they fight.

In reality, they are fighting me for the same reasons they used to tease me at school. Our new anti-terror laws have little to do with national security and everything to do with racial and ethnic and religious profiling. The laws about fighting terrorists who apparently “hate us because of who we are, because of our liberty, because of our way of life and our civilisation”.

Bullshit. This is a war about Frankenstein. Bin Ladin is the Frankenstein that big “C” conservatives created to fight their proxy wars in Afghanistan. Now Usama bin Ladin is no longer Usama bin Reagan as he used to be. And who will suffer because of this?

I will. So will my Shums. We will be deemed guilty. We will be profiled, followed, watched. Why?

Because of our names. Because of our faces. Because of our dark skin. Because we are deemed to be different even if our values and our lifestyle is the same as the intelligence services and police officers who will target and detain us.

When the government announced its new anti-terror laws, it insisted that Muslims would not be targeted. Bullshit. The President of the national police union admitted that these laws could only be implemented by ethnic and racial profiling.

So my Shums, the humble barmaid, will be profiled just because of her exotic name. She will be easily noticed because of her slightly Asiatic features and her colour of skin.

My Shums could go missing for upto two weeks at a time and become incommunicado just because someone suspects that she knows something about someone who may know something about some terrorist plot that may or may not occur. And when her fortnight is up, they might apply to a court for a further fortnight, then another, then another. And when she emerges from her ordeal, she will not be able to tell anyone about it.

If she fits the profile of a terrorist, she could be detained for a longer period in case she might be involved in an act.

So here I am hoping she doesn’t hang herself. And feeling like hanging myself. Yet the reality is that we could both be effectively “hung, drawn and quartered” as it were.

And we are not the only ones who could be deemed Muslim. I would not like to be a Sikh at this time. I will never forget catching a train and seeing a Sikh man being taunted by some boys who screamed: “Hey Usama, go back to Arabia!”

Remember that the first person killed in the United States in a racial hate-crime after September 11 was a Sikh. The first person taken into custody by the FBI was also a Sikh.

So despite my emotional limping, I have to fight on. If I really care about Shums-i-Kiwi and all the other Aussies and Kiwis deemed Muslim, I have to fight on. And there are enough people of goodwill ready to fight with me. Even if my own so-called Muslim leadership have abandoned the fight.

And when I fight these laws, I will inevitably look like the village idiot. People will ask me questions like: “Why are you fighting laws that your leaders support?”

I must march in the darkness. I think I am alone. But God will send plenty of people to fight with me - Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, people of all faiths and no faith in particular. They will all hold candles. Now is the time to light those candles, to recognise we are all fighting to protect each other and to protect the powerless. And when you fight for the powerless, the Most Powerful One is always on your side.

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Ramadan Mubarakh

O Allah, fill this month with our worship of You, adorn its times with our obedience toward You

help us during its daytime with its fast, and in its night with prayer and pleading toward You

humility toward You, and lowliness before You

so that its daytime may not bear witness against our heedlessness, nor its night against our neglect! (Imam Ali Zaynul 'Abidin (a))

Al-Islam.org's month of Ramadan section (Shi'a)

Zaytuna Ramadan section (Sunni)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Shedding Blood In The Holy Seasons

For millions of Indonesian and Australian Hindus and Muslims, this is a holy season. Ramadan is commencing, a time for fasting, charity and meditation for Muslims.

For Hindus, this is the sacred season leading upto Deepavali, a celebration of the victory of good over evil.

But in Bali, Indonesian Muslims and Hindus will be mourning the loss of loved ones during this sacred season. It seems the terrorists have won again.

Or have they? The New York Times website carried a series of photographs showing Muslims and Hindus marching side-by-side against terrorists. Terrorists want Muslim and Hindu to fight and kill each other. In Bali, the attacks have had the opposite effect.

Islam in Indonesia is largely a peaceful affair. And no, I am not engaging in empty apologetics. This is real.

In 2002, the conservative Centre for Independent Studies invited a senior official from the largest Islamic organisation in the world, the Nahdatul Ulama (meaning literally “Council of Religious Scholars”).

Muhammad Fajrul Falaakh studied in London, the United States and in a traditional Indonesian religious school. He spoke in the Great Hall of the New Zealand Parliament on 11 December 2002 on the topic of “Islam In Pluralist Indonesia”.

It is timely at this time to remind ourselves of Falaakh’s message on that occasion. He outlined 5 basic principles of Sharia law as understood by mainstream Indonesian Muslims. Some readers will be surprised by the list.

The 5 principles all seek to protect basic individual and social rights including: religious freedom, the sanctity of life, freedom of conscience and thought, property, and protection of the family unit.

I challenge any reader to find anything in these 5 basic principles which in any way conflicts with liberal democratic values or the so-called “Judeo-Christian” ethics. Nowhere does Falaakh make mention of stoning adulterers or chopping the hands of thieves.

Nor is there mention of killing innocent civilians or encouraging young people to translate frustration and depression into suicide attacks. The ideology which underpins terrorism is alien to Indonesian Islam.

No soldiers or swords were involved in the spread of Islam in this part of the world. Some 7 centuries ago, Yemeni traders settled in Malaya, Aceh and Sumatra and found each area dominated by tribes fighting each other over trade disputes.

The Yemenis introduced a common system of numeracy and accounting which resolved many commercial disputes in this mercantile ethnically-Malay society. Yemenis also introduced Sharia, an Arabic word which literally means “the way to the watering place”.

Yet for the Yemenis, Sharia was about resolving commercial disputes through mediation and arbitration. And all understanding of Sharia was in the context of the orthodox sufi traditions which the Yemenis espoused.

The most influential tribe of Yemenis to settle in the region were the “Bani Alawi” who were direct descendants of the Prophet Muhammad through his great grandson Ali bin Husayn (known as “Zainal Abidin” or “Prince of the Worshippers”). Today, the Bani Alawi dominate Malaysian and Indonesian politics, judiciary and legal profession. A former Indonesian President, Abdurrahman Wahid, was from the Bani Alawi.

Bani Alawi Islam is the most orthodox form of Islam practised in the region. It is grounded in the traditions of sufi spirituality. Sufis emphasise spiritual purification through service to the community. They encourage Muslims to work with people of all faiths and no faith in particular to achieve justice and a better life for all people.

The sufi message spread across the region. Today, Muslim Indonesians continue to practice many of their old Hindu customs. These include celebration of Deepavali, involving a shadow puppet re-enactment of the famous Hindu Ramayana epic.

Pseudo-conservative hate-filled commentators such as Mark Steyn claim that this very Islam is the cause of the terror. He sees the world as being divided into 2 camps:

Muslims v Jews in Palestine, Muslims v Hindus in Kashmir, Muslims v Christians in Nigeria, Muslims v Buddhists in southern Thailand, Muslims v (your team here). Whatever one's views of the merits on a case by case basis, the ubiquitousness of one team is a fact.

Steyn clearly hasn’t a clue about the various interpretations of a faith that claims over 1.2 billion souls across the planet. As such, each terrorist incident gives hate-mongers like Steyn an opportunity to beat the drums of civilisational war.

Thankfully, Steyn, Pipes and others are in a minority (even if they frequently pollute the op-ed pages of major Australian newspapers). Serious scholars of Indonesian culture and politics know that terrorists are hated and loathed across the country.

SBY was not elected President purely on the basis of his singing voice. Rather, it was his commitment to getting tough on terrorism that got him over the line. Indonesian voters understand that terrorism means long term economic and political instability, not to mention short term death and destruction.

And by striking on Bali during sacred Hindu and Muslim seasons, the terrorists have shown complete disdain for Indonesian culture and religion. Yet they claim to carry out their attacks in the name of Islam. It’s enough to make the Bani Alawi tribesmen turn in their graves.

The author is a Sydney industrial lawyer and occasional lecturer at the School of Politics & International Relations at Macquarie University. He is also a columnist for the Adelaide-based Australian Islamic Review.

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Monday, October 03, 2005

Uniformity vs. Unity

Flipping through the stations the other day, I passed through the local Christian station. There was a pastor/preacher talking about how there was a lot of uniformity but little unity today in Christian churches. He also mentioned that they are not the same.

Uniformity - Everyone wearing the same "uniform." "Wearing the same clothes." Everyone having the same rituals, so to speak. outwardness/external.

Unity - That feeling of togetherness. That we are one community despite our differences. inwardness/internal.

Why am I mentioning this? (And it's not to admit that I watch, even for a moment, the christian channel.)

From ISNA this evening:
UPDATE @ 9:45PM CST: Members of the Fiqh Council, National Islamic Shura Council and Muslim astronomical consultants, in a conference call on Monday evening, agreed that there were no confirmed reports of moon sightings in North America on Monday, October 3. Therefore, Sha'ban will complete 30 days and Ramadan will begin on Wednesday, October 5, insha'Allah.

From my local MSA/Mosque webpage:
Ramadan will IN SHAA ALLAH begin tomorrow, Tuesday, October 4, 2005.

Umm....I live an hour away (to the north) of the ISNA. I don't get it.

OK, there is uniformity (with Saudi Arabia), but no unity (with the North American community).

Do you know how this makes me feel?
Angry (astaghfirallah).

This is not how I want to feel during Ramadan. I want to feel that connectedness with the American Ummah. I want to feel great during Ramadan. Thankful. Not angry.

It is confusing this just-slightly-over-a-year-into-being-a Muslima's already maxed-out brain.

Astaghfirallah. Astaghfirallah. Astaghfirallah.

Insha'allah there will be a day where we would all be on the same page in North America. But "unfortunately" I will begin fasting tomorrow (Tuesday), unlike nearly the rest of the country.

And God forgive me for being so angry right now.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Muslim and Arab anti-war voices

The anti-war march last Satruday (24th of September 2005) drew some 300,000 in Washington D.C. And another 50,000 each in San Francisco, and Los Angeles - making this the largest nationwide demonstration since the United States began its invasion of Iraq about two years ago.

A number of Muslim and Arab voices were heard at the D.C. march. Imam Mahdi Bray and the Muslim American Society - Freedom Foundation helped organize the demonstrations as part of the ANSWER coalition.

You can listen to Muslim and Arab anti-war voices (and more) by clicking here (web streaming) and on the Ihsan Podcast.

Click here to subscribe/listen to the podcast on itunes.