Friday, June 30, 2006

The sad state of Muslim-American religious education

This is an important reflection on popular "sunday school" religious education found in Muslim communities across the U.S. Before going any further, however, I must include the caveat that there are countless teachers at Muslim education centers in the U.S. that strive and struggle day-in and day-out to impart the Islamic tradition's illuminous legacy of scholarship and spirituality.

It's from the blog From Clay

Essentially, we were taught a cardboard version of Islam, an arid pietism, that made ritual worship—a door to free spirituality—seem oppressive and mechanical. The things that we were taught had such a function to them that ironically made them seem too worldly. There was nothing about the “art of knocking,” a phrase I read from Martin Lings, knocking, that is, on doors to the Divine Presence. We were forced to memorize passages of the Quran in Arabic without understanding any of the transcendence that goes on with such a practice—as much transcendence that we were capable of as youth. But the real problem was this: the teachers of the classes were not committed to anything higher than their heads, and so, they weren’t convincing. They were not knockers. Even if the information they imparted was factual, there was no Truth. No soul.

Emin Mosque

Emin Mosque
Originally uploaded by Jonny Cash Money.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Muslim American Poet Sets Down Stakes

From UCLA's International Institute

At the final public meeting of a UCLA sociology course on Muslim communities in Europe and North America, University of Arkansas literary scholar and poet Mohja Kahf invited students to consider the utility of inventing a field called Muslim American literature. Kahf is herself in the process of doing just that. She has assembled a convincingly long list of authors and works under four sub-categories, and she advocates flexibility about future directions in what may be an emerging field. Many works of prose and poetry that fit Kahf’s criteria for the Muslim American label have been profitably studied under other rubrics—Arab American, Persian American, South Asian American, Beat Poets, new formalist, U.S. Southern, and so on, even Irish American—but Kahf contended that the use of a new lens would be sure to bring previously unexplored aspects of the texts into focus.

"When I started looking, everywhere you turned over a rock … there was something that could be identified as Muslim American literature," she said. A medievalist by training, Kahf has taken up the subjects of Anglophone and then U.S. writing by Muslims only in recent years.

Now finishing its third consecutive Spring Quarter session, the UCLA course, introduced and overseen by Dr. Samy Swayd, has been supported from the start by Education Department grants and has good prospects for continued funding, according to UCLA organizers. UCLA Centers for Near Eastern Studies and European and Eurasian Studies invite speakers and take the leading role in putting together content for this Department of Sociology offering. Many of the speakers looked at post-9/11 Islam in the West and immigration, discrimination, and other issues.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

When TV Becomes Kids' Nanny

From Seeker's Digest

Move over, Mary Poppins. There's a new nanny in many homes that comes with a remote control, not a magical umbrella.

A new report states that parents of babies, toddlers, and young kids "often turn to media as an important tool to help them manage their household and keep their kids entertained."

"Many parents find media a tremendous benefit in parentingparenting and can't imagine how they'd get through the day without it (especially TV, videos, and DVDs)," states the report, titled "The Media Family: Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants, Toddlers, and their Parents."

The report comes from the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, which focuses on health care issues. Data stems from a survey of more than 1,000 parents of kids aged 6 months to 6 years.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Tariq Ramadan vs. Ayaan Hirsi Ali

From the ever-insightful blog Islamophobia Watch

Hirsi and Ramadan squared off in Sweden June 16 about the "future of Islam in Europe."

Hirsi: "Why are large groups of Muslims leaving their countries? Nearly all Muslim countries are tyrannies, authoritarian, or failed states. Islamic states are in a terrible crisis. There is a lack of freedom; a lack of knowledge; and there is a subjugation of women. No wonder people leave."

Ramadan's response: "Islam is a European religion. The Muslims came here after the first and second world wars to rebuild Europe, not to colonise. It is a mistake to deny complexity. When we speak about Islam we speak about terrorism; you are focusing on the few who are destroying and not the millions who are building. Muslims are in great majority law-abiding."

Central Asia rediscovers its Muslim roots

From Reuters

TURKESTAN, Kazakhstan — In Soviet days, people walked past the Khoja Ahmed Yasawi mausoleum, a holy Muslim site in the steppe of southern Kazakhstan, and pretended it wasn't there.

"It was as if there was nothing but empty space. People were afraid to notice it," Beisekul Aladasugirova, a middle-aged librarian, said as she pointed at the burial site of the 12-century Sufi mystic.

"But now people are making up for that. Pilgrims come here in thousands, just like in the Middle Ages," said Aladasugirova, who had traveled about 190 miles to pray at the site.

Today, the shrine with the blue-tiled facade is at the center of an Islamic revival rolling across Central Asia. Some 15 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is rediscovering its role as a center for study and pilgrimage.

See article: "A History of Islam in Central Asia"

Islam in Central Asia booklist:

Monday, June 19, 2006

Keith Ellison and the new Muslim-American experience

A column I wrote for a class last quarter...

You think driving black is tough, try flying Muslim.

Fortunately for me, a white Muslim-American, I only worry about the latter.

But Keith Ellison, who could become the first Muslim congressman in American history and first black representative from Minnesota, probably has some reservations about both.

Ellison, a 42-year-old two-term state representative, just secured the Democratic endorsement for Minnesota’s Fifth District, a safe Democratic seat that represents one of the most liberal constituencies in the country.

Although the outgoing congressman’s chief of staff announced he will oppose Ellison in the September primary, observers say the state rep. has made great gains in garnering mass support including Labor that makes him the favorite to win the Democratic ticket.

And, again, it’s a safe Democratic district.

Thank God.

I was beginning to worry a little. It’s one thing to talk about being Muslim-American, and another to talk about living it.

Keith Ellison helps with the latter.

An African-American convert to Islam who originally hails from Detroit, Ellison is what we, Muslim-Americans, and Americans in general need to see more, especially considering poll numbers released by The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life in late March.

In its “Prospects for Inter-Religious Understanding” survey, Pew found that 55 percent of Americans in general have a favorable view of Muslims, while 41 percent have a favorable view of Islam as a religion.

Those numbers aren’t that bad. The Forum said in its report, “It is also noteworthy that the number of Americans expressing favorable views toward Muslim-Americans (55%) closely rivals the number expressing favorable attitudes toward evangelical Christians (57%). And Muslim-Americans are viewed much more favorably by the public than are
atheists, about whom Americans express a particularly high level of discomfort.”

But, then again, we Muslim-Americans don’t exactly have the same clout as our white evangelical Christians friends, especially in Washington.

But that could change.

“I think it’s time for the United States to see a moderate Muslim voice, to see a face of Islam that is just like everybody else’s face,” Ellison told the D.C. newspaper The Hill. “Perhaps it would be good for somebody who is Muslim to be in Congress, so that Muslims would feel like they are part of the body politic and that other Americans would know that we’re here to make a contribution to this country.”

It’s also a plus that Ellison is not the clich├ęd Muslim dressed in foreign garb. He delivers crowd-rousing speeches donned in sharp suits that remind me more of the Midwest than the MidEast.

But it’s not only his appearance that resonates with Americans; it’s also his name.

As the Muslim commentator Hesham Hassaballa wrote recently, The more non-Muslim Americans learn that their friends and neighbors who are named “John” and “Jennifer” are Muslims, the more they will come to see Islam as truly part of the American fabric - which it is - as opposed to some foreign force that was transplanted here. In addition, the beautiful diversity of the American Muslim community is only enhanced when more converts choose to keep the names of their birth after their conversion to Islam.”

It’s true. The fact that a Muslim named Keith is running on a progressive platform that some liken to that of the late Senator Paul Wellstone, the African-American lawyer and democrat is a wonderful example of American Islam’s diversity. This, especially considering some Muslims can be more socially conservative than even right-wing evangelicals.

Aside, though, from the specifics of outward appearances and political platforms, Ellison needs no words to confront anti-Muslim myth and machination alike. His running for Congress defies the common stereotypes: Islam is not compatible with democracy; Muslims hate the West, etc.

And this is most important of all. Especially for we Muslim-Americans, all 7 million of us, who love this country and are proud to be apart of it.

That there is a political process in this country that supports Muslim-American efforts in the political arena such as Ellison’s, I have the Christian founders of this country to thank.

And for this, I’ll say it again.

Thank God.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

How Washington created a new enemy

From South Africa's Mail & Guradian

Washington has been playing with fire in Somalia, where its support for a warlord alliance has ended up boosting Islamic militias, which now hold the capital Mogadishu, analysts say.

Somalia has been torn by four months of fighting between the Islamists and an alliance of warlords who largely controlled the lawless state for the past 15 years.

The Joint Islamic Courts militias appeared on Thursday to have defeated the warlords after capturing their last two strongholds, and have vowed to rapidly open Sharia courts in the areas under its control.

Only a few months ago, this would have been impossible for lack of public support, experts said.

Muslim-American scholars seek a modern middle ground

A decent piece on Zaytuna Institute and our beloved 'ulema Sheikh Hamza Yusuf and Sheikh Zaid Shakir.

I have created my own headline seen above for the following piece because the original one uses the term "cleric" to describe our Imams. I dislike the term "cleric" being used within the Islamic tradition because there is no ecclesiastical hierarchy like one finds in the Catholic Church.

From the NY Times

Every seat in the auditorium at the University of Houston was taken, and the crowd was standing in the back and spilling out into the lobby, straining to hear. The two men onstage began to speak to the crowd in Arabic, with such flawless accents and rarefied Koranic grammar that some audience members gaped when they heard the Arabic equivalent of the king's English coming from the mouths of two Americans.

Sheik Hamza Yusuf, in a groomed goatee and sports jacket, looked more like a hip white college professor than a Muslim sheik. Imam Zaid Shakir, a lanky African-American in a long brown tunic, looked like he would fit in just fine on the streets of Damascus.

Both men are converts to Islam who spent years in the Middle East and North Africa being mentored by formidable Muslim scholars. They have since become leading intellectual lights for a new generation of American Muslims looking for homegrown leaders who can help them learn how to live their faith without succumbing to American materialism or Islamic extremism.

Not Every Calamity Is a Punishment

Suffering is not necessarily a punishment for a sin one has committed, but it may be a test and trial for some people. God allows some people to suffer in order to test their patience and steadfastness. Even God's Prophets and Messengers were made to suffer. Moreover, God sometimes allows some people to suffer to test others, how they react to them.

Whenever we encounter suffering we should ask ourselves, "Have we broken any law of God? Is the cause of the problem our own misdeeds?" In that case, we should correct the situation. "Could it be a punishment?" Let us repent and ask forgiveness and reform our ways. "Could it be a test and trial for us?" Let us work hard to pass this test. Believers face sufferings with prayers, patience, repentance and good deeds.

Further, one's daughter's/son's visual impairment may seem a calamity to him/her now, but in time he/she may find that this is offset by other abilities that she/he has. God has given one a chance to earn a great reward in Paradise if he/she are patient with her/him and with his/her

In this regard, Sheikh M. S. Al-Munajjid, a prominent Saudi Muslim lecturer and author, states:
Not every sickness or handicap is necessarily a punishment; rather it may be a test for the child's parents, by which God will expiate their bad deeds or raise their status in Paradise if they bear this trial with patience. Then if the child grows up, the test will also include him, and if he bears it with patience and faith, then God has prepared for the patient one a reward that cannot be measured. God says: "Only those who are patient shall receive their reward in full, without reckoning." (az-Zumar 10)

For us Muslims, life does not end when we die; rather, we believe that beyond death there is Paradise and Hell, in which are true life. Those who did good will find the reward for their good deeds waiting for them with God, and those who did evil will find the punishment for their evil deeds waiting for them. Good and evil cannot be equal, and the patience of the one who was tested and bore it with patience will not be wasted with God.

Indeed, those who were not tested in this world may wish that they had suffered similar calamities when they see the high status attained by those who bore calamities with patience.

There is a great deal of evidence to this effect in the Qur'an and Sunnah (Prophetic Tradition). Examples of this are as follows: God says: "And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to the patient." (al-Baqarah 155)

The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) said: "How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for all of it is good, and that applies to no one except the believer. If something good happens to him he gives thanks, and that is good for him, and if something bad befalls
him he bears it with patience and that is good for him." (Reported by Muslim)

From this, it should be clear to you that the calamities that befall those who seem to us to be innocent— and indeed befall all people — are not necessarily a punishment. Rather they may be a mercy from God, but our minds and reason are imperfect and are often unable to understand the wisdom of God in such matters. Either we believe that God is more just than us, and more wise, and more merciful towards His creation, so we submit to Him and accept His will while also acknowledging our inability to understand the true nature of our own selves.

Or we boast of our imperfect reason and feel proud of our weak selves and insist on calling God to account and objecting to His Decree. But such thoughts can never cross the mind of anyone who believes in the existence of a wise Lord, Creator and Sovereign Who is perfect in all ways. If we do that, then we have exposed ourselves to the wrath and vengeance of God, but nothing can ever harm Allah. Allah draws attention to this when He says: "He cannot be questioned as to what He does, while they will be questioned." (al-Anbiya' 23)

A sign of man's weakness and shortsightedness is that he focuses on the calamities without paying any attention to the benefits they may bring, and not looking at other blessings that he enjoys and sees around him. For God has blessed all people in ways that do not compare with the calamities that may befall them. If there was a man who does a lot of good but occasionally
does not do good, then forgetting the good things that he does would be regarded as ingratitude and denial. So how about when this is our attitude toward God, to Whom belong the highest attributes, and all of Whose dealings with His creation are good and cannot be bad in any way?

Moreover, the Prophets and Messengers are the most beloved of creation to God, yet despite that, they were the most severely tested of mankind and suffered the most calamities. Why? It was not a punishment for them, and it was not because of their insignificance before their Lord. Rather it is because God loves them and has stored for them a perfect reward that they will enjoy in Paradise, and He decreed that these calamities should befall them so that He might raise them in status. He does whatever He wills, however He wills, whenever He wills; none can put back His judgment, none can repel His command, and He is All-Wise, All-Knowing.

*And God is Most High, Most Knowledgeable and Most Wise.

*Compiled from various sources. Permission is granted to circulate among private individuals and groups, to post on Internet sites and to publish *in full* *text and subject title* in not-for-profit publications.

"Reflection illumines hearts."

Monk, Xiahe, China
Originally uploaded by dwrawlinson.

The amazing profundity of Sidi Ibn Ata'Illah al-Iskandari. Translation by Sheikh Nuh Keller.

The Public Dhikr (Hadra)

The Public Dhikr (Hadra)

© Nuh Ha Mim Keller 1996.

A person coming to the Middle East to learn something about the tariqa is likely, at some point in his visit, to see the brethren in the hadra or “public dhikr” as it has been traditionally practiced by generations of Shadhilis in North Africa under such sheikhs as al-‘Arabi al-Darqawi, Muhammad al-Buzidi, and Ahmad al-‘Alawi before being brought to Damascus from Algeria by Muhammad ibn Yallis and Muhammad al-Hashimi at the beginning of this century.

Upon entering the mosque, one will see circles of men making dhikr (women participants are screened from view upstairs) standing and holding hands, now slightly bowing in unison, now moving up and down with their knees in unison, the rows rising and falling, breathing in unison, while certain of them alternate at pacing around their midst, conducting the tempo of the group’s motion and breathing with their arms and step. Singers near the sheikh, in solo or chorus, deliver mystical odes to the rhythm of the group; high, spiritual poetry from masters like Ibn al-Farid, Sheikh Ahmad al-‘Alawi, ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Himsi, and our own sheikh.

Though a very stirring experience, it is meticulously timed and controlled, and as with all group dhikrs, the main adab or “proper behaviour” is harmony. No one should stand out in any way, but rather all subordinate their movement, breathing, and dhikr to that of the group. The purpose is to forget one’s individuality in the collective sea of spirits making dhikr in unison. Individual motives, thoughts, and preoccupations are momentarily put aside by means of the Sacred Dance, of moving together as one, sublimating and transcending the limitary and personal through the timelessness of rhythm, conjoined with the melody of voices singing spiritual meanings.

It is an experience that joins those travelling towards Allah spiritually, socially, and emotionally. Few forget it, and visitors from the West to whom it is unfamiliar sometimes wonder if it is a bid‘a or “reprehensible innovation,” as it was not done in the time of the earliest Muslims, or whether it is unlawful (haram) or offensive (makruh); and why they see the ulama and righteous attending it in Damascus, Jerusalem, Aden, Cairo, Tripoli, Tunis, Fez, and wherever there are people of the path.

I was one of those who asked our sheikh about the relation of the hadra to the shari‘a or “Sacred Law” which is the guiding light of our tariqa. As Muslims, our submission to the law is total, and there are no thoughts or opinions after legally answering the question “Does the hadra agree with orthodox Islam?”

Because it comprises a number of various elements, such as gathering together for the remembrance of Allah (dhikr), singing, and dancing, we should reflect for a moment on some general considerations about the Islamic shari‘a before discussing each of these separately.

First, the Islamic shari‘a furnishes a comprehensive criterion for all possible human actions, whether done before or never done before. It classifies actions into five categories, the obligatory (wajib), whose performance is rewarded by Allah in the next life and whose nonperformance is punished; the recommended (mandub), whose perfor­mance is rewarded but whose nonperformance is not pun­ished; the permissible (mubah), whose performance is not rewarded and whose nonperformance is not punished; the offensive (makruh), whose nonperformance is rewarded but whose performance is not punished; and the unlawful (haram), whose nonperformance is rewarded and whose performance is punished.

Now, Allah in His wisdom has made the vast majority of human actions permissible. He says in surat al-Baqara, “It is He who has created everything on earth for you” (Koran 2:29), which establishes the shari‘a principle that all things are mubah or permissible for us until Allah indicates to us that they are otherwise. Because of this, the fact that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) did not do this or that particular practice does not prove that it is offensive or unlawful, but only that it is not obligatory.

This is the reason that when shari‘a scholars speak of bid‘a, they do not merely mean an “innovation” or something that was never done before, which is the lexical sense of the word, but rather a “blameworthy innovation” or something new that no legal evidence in Sacred Law attests to the validity of, which is the shari‘a sense of the word. The latter is the bid‘a of misguidance mentioned in the hadith “The worst of matters are those that are new, and every
innovation (bid‘a) is misguidance” (Sahih Muslim. 5 vols. Cairo 1376/1956. Reprint. Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1403/1983, 2.592: 867), which, although general in wording, scholars say refers specifically to new matters that entail something offensive or unlawful. Imam Shafi‘i explains:
New matters are of two kinds: something newly begun that contravenes the Koran, sunna, the position of early Muslims, or consensus of scholars (ijma‘): this innovation is misguidance. And something newly inaugurated of the good in which there is no contravention of any of these, and is therefore something which although new (muhdatha), is not blameworthy.

For when ‘Umar (Allah be well pleased with him) saw the [tarawih] prayer being performed [in a group by Muslims at the mosque] in Ramadan, he said, “What a good innovation (bid‘a) this is,” meaning something newly begun that had not been done before. And although in fact it had, this does not negate the legal considerations just advanced [n: i.e. that it furnishes an example of something that ‘Umar, who was a scholar of the Sahaba, praised as a “good innovation” despite his belief that it had not been done before, because it did not contravene the broad principles of the Koran or sunna] (Dhahabi: Siyar a‘lam al-nubala’. 23 vols. Beirut: Mu’assassa al-Risala, 1401/1981, 10.70).
As for the practice of Muslims gathering together for group dhikr or the “invocation of Allah,” there is much evidence of its praiseworthiness in the sunna—aside from the many Koranic verses and the hadiths establishing the general merit of dhikr in every state—such as the hadith related by Bukhari:
Truly, Allah has angels going about the ways, looking for people of dhikr, and when they find a group of men invoking Allah, they call to one another, “Come to what you have been looking for!” and they circle around them with their wings up to the sky of this world.

Then their Lord asks them, though He knows better than they, “What do My servants say?” And they reply, “They say, Subhan Allah (“I glorify Allah’s absolute perfection”), Allahu Akbar (“Allah is ever greatest”), and al-Hamdu li Llah (“All praise be to Allah”), and they extoll Your glory.” He says, “Have they seen Me?” And they answer, “No, by Allah, they have not seen You.” And He says, “How would it be, had they seen Me?” And they say, “If they had seen You, they would have worshipped You even more, glorified You more, and said Subhan Allah the more.”

He asks them, “What do they ask of Me?” And one answers, “They ask You paradise.” He says, “Have they seen it?” And they say, “No, by Allah, My Lord, they have not seen it.” And He says, “How would it be, had they seen it?” And they say, “If they had seen it, they would have been more avid for it, sought it more, and been more desirous of it.”

Then He asks them, “From what do they seek refuge?” And they answer, “From hell.” He says, “Have they seen it?” And they say, “No, by Allah, they have not seen it.” And He says, “How would it be, had they seen it?” And they say, “If they had seen it, they would have fled from it even more, and been more fearful of it.”

He says, “I charge all of you to bear witness that I have forgiven them.” Then one of the angels says, “So-and-so is among them, though he is not one of them but only came for something he needed.” And Allah says, “They are companions through whom no one who keeps their company shall meet perdition” (Sahih al-Bukhari. 9 vols. Cairo 1313/1895. Reprint (9 vols. in 3). Beirut: Dar al-Jil, n.d., 8.107–8: 6408).

The last line of the hadith shows the highest approval for gatherings of dhikr in the religion of Allah. Some other accounts transmit the condemnation of Ibn Mas‘ud (Allah be well please with him) for gathering together to say Subhan Allah (perhaps out of fear of ostentation), but even if we were to grant their authenticity, the above hadith of Bukhari, containing the explicit approval of such gatherings by Allah and His messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace)
suffices us from needing the permission of Ibn Mas‘ud or any other human being.

Further, the explicit mention of the various forms of dhikr in the hadith suffice in reply to certain contemporary “re-formers” of Islam, who attempt to reduce “sessions of dhikr” to educational gatherings alone by quoting the words of ‘Ata' (ibn Abi Rabah, Mufti of Mecca, d. 114/732), who reportedly said, Sessions of dhikr are the sessions of [teaching people] the lawful and unlawful, how you buy, sell, pray, fast, wed, divorce, make the pilgrimage, and the like (Nawawi: al-Majmu‘: Sharh al-Muhadhdhab. 20 vols. Cairo n.d. Reprint. Medina: al-Maktaba al-Salafiyya, n.d., 1.21).

Perhaps ‘Ata' intended to inform people that teaching and learning shari‘a are also a form of dhikr, but in any case it is clear from the Prophet’s explicit words (Allah bless him and give him peace) in the above hadith that “sessions of dhikr” cannot be limited to teaching and learning Sacred Law alone, but primarily mean gatherings of Muslims to invoke Allah in dhikr.

As for dancing, Imam Ahmad relates from Anas (Allah be well pleased with him), with a chain of transmission all of whose narrators are those of Bukhari except Hammad ibn Salama, who is one of the narrators of Muslim, that the Ethiopians danced in front of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace); dancing and saying [in their language], “Muhammad is a righteous servant.” The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “What are they saying?” And they said, “‘Muhammad is a righteous servant’” (Musnad al-Imam Ahmad. 6 vols. Cairo 1313/1895. Reprint. Beirut: Dar Sadir, n.d., 3.152).

Other versions of the hadith clarify that this took place in the mosque in Medina, though in any case, the fact that dancing was done before the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) establishes that it is mubah or “permissible” in the shari‘a, for if it had been otherwise, he would have been obliged to condemn it. For this reason, Imam Nawawi says: Dancing is not unlawful, unless it is languid, like the movements of the effeminate. And it is permissible to speak and to sing poetry, unless it satirizes someone, is obscene, or alludes to a particular woman” (Minhaj al-talibin wa ‘umdat al-muttaqin. Cairo 1338/1920. Reprint. Cairo: Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi, n.d., 152).

This is a legal text for the permissibility of both dancing and singing poetry from the Minhaj al-talibin, the central legal work of the entire late Shafi‘i school. Islamic scholars point out that if something which is permissible, such as singing poetry or dancing, is conjoined with something that is recommended, such as dhikr or gatherings to make dhikr, the result of this conjoining will not be offensive (makruh) or unlawful (haram). Imam Jalal al-Din Suyuti was asked for a fatwa or formal legal opinion concerning “a group of Sufis who had gathered for a session of dhikr,” and he replied:
How can one condemn making dhikr while standing, or standing while making dhikr, when Allah Most High says, “. . . those who invoke Allah standing, sitting, and upon their sides” (Koran 3:191).

And ‘A'isha (Allah be well pleased with her) said, “The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to invoke Allah at all of his times” [Sahih Muslim, 1.282: 373].

And if dancing is added to this standing, it may not be condemned, as it is of the joy of spiritual vision and ecstasy, and the hadith exists [in many sources, such as Musnad al-Imam Ahmad, 1.108, with a sound (hasan) chain of transmission] that Ja‘far ibn Abi Talib danced in front of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) when the Prophet told him, “You resemble me in looks and in character,” dancing from the happiness he felt from being thus addressed, and the Prophet did not condemn him for doing so, this being a basis for the legal acceptability of the Sufis dancing from the joys of the ecstasies they experience (al-Hawi li al-fatawi. 2 vols. Cairo 1352/1933–34. Reprint. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyya, 1403/1983, 2.234).

Now, Suyuti was a hadith master (hafiz, someone with over 100,000 hadiths by memory) and a recognized mujtahid Imam who authored hundreds of works in the shari‘a sciences, and his formal opinion, together with the previously cited ruling of Imam Nawawi in the Minhaj al-talibin, constitutes an authoritative legal text (nass) in the Shafi‘i school establishing that circles of dhikr which comprise the singing of spiritual poetry and dancing are neither offensive (makruh) nor unlawful (haram)—unless associated with other unlawful factors such as listening to musical instruments or the mixing of men and women—but rather are permissible.

To summarize, the hadra of our tariqa, consisting of circles of invocation of Allah (dhikr) conjoined with the singing of permissible poetry and dancing, is compatible with the Sacred Law of orthodox Islam; and when the latter elements facilitate presence of heart with Allah (as they do with most people who possess hearts), they deserve a reward from Allah by those who intend them as such. And this is the aim and importance of the hadra in the tariqa.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Chinese madrassa

Originally uploaded by SamLi.
I guess this photo, one could say, illustrates the result of the hadith of the Envoy of God, may God bless him and give him peace, "Seek knowledge even unto China."

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Terror Fears Hamper U.S. Muslims' Travel

From the NY Times

SAN FRANCISCO, May 31 — Azhar Usman, a burly American-born Muslim with a heavy black beard, says he elicits an almost universal reaction when he boards an airplane at any United States airport: conversations stop in midsentence and the look in the eyes of his fellow passengers says, "We're all going to die!"

or Ahmed Ahmed, a comedian, it is even worse. His double-barreled name matches an occasional alias used by a henchman of Osama bin Laden. "It's a bad time to be named Ahmed right now," he riffs in his stand-up routine, before describing being hauled through the Las Vegas airport in handcuffs.

Taleb Salhab and his wife say they too were dragged away in handcuffs at the border crossing in Port Huron, Mich., as their two preschool daughters wailed in the back seat of their car. The Salhabs were discharged after four hours of questioning, with no explanation from customs officers.