Sunday, July 30, 2006

Disowning Conservative Politics, Evangelical Pastor Rattles Flock

From the NY Times

Mr. Boyd said he never intended his sermons to be taken as merely a critique of the Republican Party or the religious right. He refuses to share his party affiliation, or whether he has one, for that reason. He said there were Christians on both the left and the right who had turned politics and patriotism into “idolatry.”

Friday, July 28, 2006


Faith, originally uploaded by انك InKsteweR.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Boosting Extremists With Bombs

From YaleGlobal

Israel’s air strikes on Southern Lebanon boost support for Hezbollah in the Arab world, as many lose faith in already struggling Arab democracies. Outlining the history of Hezbollah in a region prone to setbacks and violence, Middle East analyst and author Dilip Hiro predicts that the present fighting paves the way for more Arab rulers to resort to repressive measures in order to control dissent or extremism. Hezbollah’s attacks may have been just one more step in their long struggle over prisoner exchanges with Israel, but Israel’s fierce retaliation could have much wider consequences. The Israeli attacks, Hiro says, undermine the legitimacy of the moderate Arab regimes and unwittingly shore up the fortunes of the Islamist forces in the Arab world as well as those of Iran. The attacks spur anger against Israel, support for Hezbollah and repression by Arab governments, thus setting back the movement toward democracy in the region – an avowed goal of American policy.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Morality is not on our side

By Israeli political science professor Ze'ev Maoz for the Israeli daily Haaretz

There's practically a holy consensus right now that the war in the North is a just war and that morality is on our side. The bitter truth must be said: this holy consensus is based on short-range selective memory, an introverted worldview, and double standards.

This war is not a just war. Israel is using excessive force without distinguishing between civilian population and enemy, whose sole purpose is extortion. That is not to say that morality and justice are on Hezbollah's side. Most certainly not. But the fact that Hezbollah "started it" when it kidnapped soldiers from across an international border does not even begin to tilt the scales of justice toward our side.

Let's start with a few facts. We invaded a sovereign state, and occupied its capital in 1982. In the process of this occupation, we dropped several tons of bombs from the air, ground and sea, while wounding and killing thousands of civilians. Approximately 14,000 civilians were killed between June and September of 1982, according to a conservative estimate. The majority of these civilians had nothing to do with the PLO, which provided the official pretext for the war.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Ya Nafsu

This beautiful English qasida can be found here

Should you not gain your wants, my soul, then be not grieved;
But hasten to that banquet which your Lord’s bequeathed.

And when a thing for which you ask is slow to come,
Then know that often through delay are gifts received.

Find solace in privation and respect its due,
For only by contentment is the heart relieved.

And know that when the trials of life have rendered you
Despairing of all hope, and of all joy bereaved,

Then shake yourself and rouse yourself from heedlessness,
And make pure hope a meadow that you never leave.

Your Maker’s gifts take subtle and uncounted forms.
How fine the fabric of the world His hands have weaved.

The journey done, they came to the water of life,
And all the caravan drank deep, their thirst allieved.

Far be it from the host to leave them thirsty there,
His spring pours forth all generosity received.

My Lord, my trust in all Your purposes is strong,
That trust is now my shield; I’m safe, and undeceived.

All those who hope for grace from You will feel Your rain;
Too generous are You to leave my branch unleaved.

May blessings rest upon the loved one, Muhammad,
Who’s been my means to high degrees since I believed.

He is my fortress and my handhold, so my soul,
Hold fast, and travel to a joy still unconceived.

Imam 'Ali bin Husayn al-Habshi
(translated by Abdal Hakim Murad)

The spirit of the King David Hotel

From the Israeli newspaper Haaretz

by Tom Segev

The terror attack on the King David Hotel in Jerusalem was in its day the equivalent of the Twin Towers; yesterday was its 60th anniversary. There are two historic plaques at the hotel, one of whose wings was used by the British Mandate authority. On one of the plaques, which has been hanging there for some time, a few words note the terror attack: "On July 22, 1946, the Etzel underground bombed the southern wing." The action is attributed to Etzel alone, but there is no condemnation. "Underground" generally has a positive connotation.

The unveiling of the other plaque this week was meant to cap an academic conference held at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center on the issue of who is a freedom fighter and who is a terrorist. It was quite a week to clarify such a question. They can be distinguished by organizational affiliation, goals, targets, means of combat and mode of operation. They all assume that a freedom fighter is a good person and a terrorist is a bad one. Nearly every terrorist defines himself as a freedom fighter, and vice versa: freedom fighters are usually defined as terrorists. So was Begin. He invested a lot of effort to convince history that he was not a terrorist. Among other things, he emphasized that his organization did not harm civilians. There's a thesis that could serve as an historic lesson from a moral standpoint: not harming civilians.

Monday, July 24, 2006


From Red-Sulphur

Requirements of Repentance, its Prescribed Practices, its Etiquette, and its Preferred Observances

Al-Junayd said to Mālik ibn Dīnār (may God be pleased with the both of them): 'Inform me as to the requirements of repentance, its prescribed practices, its etiquette, and its preferred observances.'

[Mālik ibn Dīnār] replied: 'There is no capability and no power except through God, the Most High, the Almighty! As for the requirements of repentance, [they consist of] paying back the injustices [one had committed] to those who have suffered them and making up the prayers, fasts, and alms that have been missed. As for its prescribed practices, [they consist in] avoiding the companions that were befriended during the period of one's disobedience, renouncing [one's past], and weeping for what has gone before. As for its supererogatory acts, [they consist in] continuously reciting invocations and [maintaining] the presence of the heart [with God]. As for its preferred observances, they [consist in] choosing a shaykh who is knowledgeable, God-fearing, scrupulous, and ascetic. As for its etiquette, [it consists of] happiness and excitement in [one's] obedience toward God, the continuous practice [of obedience], visiting other shaykhs, love for the poor and indigent, and the carrying out of [one's] obligations at the first moment that they are due.'

July 2006 War on Lebanon

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Little dissent as Israelis support war

From the BBC

The withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon in 2000 was brought about in part by increasing public pressure to pull out.

But, just six years on, Israelis stand almost unanimously behind the decision to wage a new war across the country's northern border.

According to recent opinion polls, as many as 90% of Israeli citizens approve of the offensive against Hezbollah and want it to continue.

"The situation with Hezbollah and Iran created a siege mentality among the Israeli people," said veteran Israeli pollster, Rafi Smith.

"Whenever Israel is attacked, people are always more patriotic and support the government, which is why so many people support this war."

Voices of dissent are scarce, but despite overwhelming public approval for the campaign, there is still a small number of Israelis who have come out against the conflict.

In Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on Saturday night, some 2,000 protesters, both Jews and Arabs, held a demonstration against the war, and - unusually in Israel - the country's alliance with the United States.

A Perfect Storm Of Clouded Judgment

From the Forward

by Steven Simon

he perfect storm that has broken over the Middle East since the back-to-back kidnappings by Hamas and Hezbollah was fed by converging developments, developments that might have been manageable individually but which proved disastrous in combination. A look at the conditions that merged to fuel the typhoon offers a sense of just what it will take to get through the situation.

Aging revolutionary movements feel compelled to prove their continuing relevance and vitality, especially as they begin to fade into a quotidian political landscape. Call it the last fling of a mid-life crisis. The current tempest resulted in part from four such movements going through this phase simultaneously.

In Palestine, elections Hamas had long disdained saddled it with unwelcome demands, like the need to accommodate Israel, while trading the thrill of armed struggle for the delivery of mundane public services. Some of the party's pragmatists seemed prepared to accept the passing of youth, but others both inside Gaza and out, like Khaled Meshal, were repulsed by the new dispensation and set out to wreck it.

To the north, the halting transformation of Hezbollah into a relatively normal political party, complete with parliamentary representation and responsibility for civilian ministries, spurred the same sort of split. Unable to settle down as ordinary Lebanese concerned with local Lebanese interests, the party leadership opted for its more glamorous role as vanguard of Muslim anti-Zionism. Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, certified by the United Nations, evidently encumbered Hezbollah with an identity crisis the party couldn't quite overcome.

Meanwhile, the Iranian revolution slowly fizzled. Political paralysis, titanic corruption and a stagnant economy sapped the country's esprit. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's rise to power was driven by a commitment to restore Iran's sagging revolutionary spirit. The initial result was Tehran's insistence on Iran's right to enrich uranium, followed by the regime's encouragement of its militant Lebanese protégé to pick a fight with Israel.

At the same time, the Arab nationalism of the Syrian Baath party, long thought to be dead and buried, found a new voice in President Bashar Assad. While the regime in Damascus is just the sclerotic mob family it appears to be, Bashar himself has revolutionary juices pulsing through his veins. When he hectors his counterparts at Arab League meetings over their betrayal of Arab dignity and honor, he means it. For Bashar, enabling Hezbollah to provoke Israel revalidated a Baath revolution that had ossified long before he was born.

The seven-year revolutionary itch was compounded by a series of serious simultaneous mistakes. Both Hamas and Hezbollah let obsolete ideas about Israel cloud their view of how the Olmert government would respond to their respective kidnapping ploys. Meshal was convinced that Israel would cut a deal and that he would be the negotiating partner. In his fevered imagination, the media image of Israelis dancing to his tune catapulted him into the Palestinian leadership and marginalized hapless pragmatists like Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh and President Mahmoud Abbas.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah was evidently seduced by his own poetic depiction of Israeli society as a spider web, intricate and seemingly solid but infinitely fragile. His contempt for his enemy led him to draw all the wrong conclusions from commentator's clichés about Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's lack of political depth and military experience. Nasrallah's alleged grasp of Israeli thinking also failed him. An informed understanding of Olmert's objectives and his political circumstances would have led Nasrallah to anticipate precisely the catastrophe Israel is now visiting on Lebanon.

Assad and Ahmadinejad blew it, too. Both leaders expected to bask in the glow of Hamas's and Hezbollah's easy humiliation of Israel's new leadership. The audacity of their clients' actions was supposed to enhance Syrian and Iranian prestige and credibility, while it shamed and isolated moderate rulers in Arab capitals. This is not how things turned out.

Although many in the region might applaud the kidnappings, enough people recognize the abductions were recklessly gratuitous for the Saudi and Egyptian leadership to muster the confidence to issue condemnations. Tehran and Damascus have emerged as the isolated regimes, at least for now.

Renewed sectarian rivalry in the Muslim world helped turn the squall into a full-fledged storm. In recent decades, tensions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims have ebbed and flowed. The Iranian revolution of 1979 prompted the previous peak.

Sunnis throughout the region were inspired by the rise of Islamic rule in an important state, but feared the ascendance of an assertive transnational Shiite community. This was especially true in countries where Shiites formed a large part of the population, as in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Syria and Lebanon. The anxieties generated then spurred a Sunni reaction that included the formation of militant groups like Al Qaeda.

Sectarian tensions are once again on the rise. This time, it is the accession to power of Shiites in Iraq. Just as this outcome of the American invasion has stoked Sunni fears, it has pumped up Shiite confidence and tempted activists to press their advantage.

Hezbollah's daring, if foolhardy, maneuvering vis a vis Israel both expresses the urge to seize the day and intensifies it. This helps explain Hezbollah's willingness to sacrifice the interests of its Lebanese host on the altar of Shiite self-aggrandizement. Sectarianism is likely to prolong the crisis, even as it eventually leads Sunni governments to a tacit support for diplomatic intervention that limits Hezbollah's power.

The wind shift that transformed these conditions into the perfect storm began with Washington's neglect of the Israeli-Palestinian front. When the cat's away, the mice will play, and the Bush administration's unwillingness to manage a dangerous situation gave troublemakers room to run. Washington's distance goes back to 2001, when the White House declined to mediate after the outbreak of the second intifada. From the administration's perspective, Bill Clinton had squandered American prestige at the failed Camp David II summit in 2000. The Palestinians, after all, will ultimately have to accept their lot; and American mediation would be less conducive to this recognition of reality than would the prospect of open-ended Israeli occupation.

Meanwhile, the White House had more important things to do, especially after the September 11 attacks and the subsequent invasion of Iraq. While there is some truth to the Bush administration's claim that the parties were too far apart — and that Palestinians under Yasser Arafat in too much disarray — to permit the United States to broker a deal, steps could have been taken to stave off Hamas's election and prepare for a Hamas victory if the Abbas government proved unsustainable.

Once the crisis began, immediate American involvement might also have prevented the violence from escalating. This, however, would have required the lines of communication and leverage with the warring parties that the administration's policies had systematically dismantled.

The perfect storm was made by everything going wrong at once: the sudden thaw of freeze-dried revolutions; multiple, concurrent blunders; resurgence of Shiite activism, and a mutually reinforcing lack of American attentiveness and dwindling influence. To survive the gale, therefore, everything has to go right at once, or more plausibly, in a tight, compelling sequence.

The violence must be brought under control, the captive soldiers returned, verifiable arrangements for Hezbollah's disarmament put in place, Lebanese army control over the south established, a modus vivendi between Israel and the Palestinian Authority negotiated, and infrastructure rebuilt. Even one or two of these measures would be a massive achievement. To accomplish all seems fantastic.

One thing, however, is certain. These things will not happen spontaneously. They will require the careful blend of planning, pressure and inducement that only a focused administration can supply.

Steven Simon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is a former senior director for transnational threats at the National Security Council. He is co-author of "The Next Attack" (Henry Holt, 2005).

Jama Mosque

Delhi, India


Two Women, originally uploaded by Nocturnales.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Reflections on Building Community


by R. Anas Coburn

As a young American "spiritual seeker" in the early 1970s, I was intent on finding a way of life that would nourish my spirit even as I engaged with the larger society in an effort to redress some of the social ills I saw around me. Speaking out against that which I perceived to be wrong with my country had taught me that however impassioned, however sincere, even however "right" I might be, without something to keep my heart alive, I would inevitably be left sick with anger. So it was that Allah prepared me to embrace His deen when led to it. It was very clear that I had been plucked from the edge of an abyss, and that safety was found in the community.

And hold fast, all of you together, to the cable of Allah, and do not separate. And remember Allah's favor unto you: How ye were enemies and He made friendship between your hearts so that ye became as brothers by His grace; and (how) ye were upon the brink of an abyss of fire, and He did save you from it. Thus Allah maketh clear His revelations unto you, that haply ye may be guided, (Qur'an: Ahli' Imraan, Ayat #103)

A strong theme running through the deen of Islam as I encountered it was the importance of community. Prayers are considered more blessed when they take place in congregation. There are plentiful ahadith about eating in company, assembling for the remembrance of Allah, treatment of neighbors, the mutual supportiveness of believers, etc. Islam is a deen that is explicitly social. The importance of community is everywhere reinforced in the practice of Islam. At the same time, it doesn't take long before one becomes aware of Muslims' complaints about the ummah. There is much concern about the deterioration of community among the non-Muslims as well.

The intention of this essay is to explore the notion of community and some of the contemporary thought concerning the plight of community today and how it may be addressed. Central to this discussion is the relational aspect of community. Relationships among people are at the core of community. The essay begins with the concept of community and its psychological importance. Next comes consideration of the social value of community and the way this value has been affected by the commodification of values and social saturation. The essay concludes with an introduction of the concept of social capital and its relevance for the Muslim community.

The Concept of Community

For those of us with a Western education, modern usage and the contemporary sense of the term's meaning have heavily influenced our concept of community. The term comes from the "Latin communitas, a community, fellowship, from communis, common.[1]" Our general sense of the term may be parsed into two ideas. First of all, the term refers to a group, and secondly to shared attributes or something the group has in common. When we think of community, there are various descriptive and historical aspects that come to mind. Generally the term has some sense of locale, of people joined together for a common pursuit. We think of community as referring to a collective of private and public affiliation that is informal, rather than formal institutional organization. We think of the term as referring to entities that extend outward in general groupings from the individual. That is, we recognize that an individual may belong to more than one community, even though our sense of the meaning of the term may shift slightly depending on what kind of community we are talking about. Each of the "communities" to which we belong is characterized by the attributes we hold in common with other members of that particular community. The members of a particular community positively value a commonality that allows the members to consider themselves a community. What members of a community often strongly defend and highly prize is the unifying sameness of community identity and sameness.

We recognize that community places certain limits on our behavior, and even upon our identity. That is to say that to be a part of a community necessarily entails that we make choices not only on the basis of what is good for us, but what is good for the community as a whole. But there is another element to our identity, that of individual characteristics and choice. We have a strong sense of individual responsibility and choice. This sense of responsibility and choice entail a belief in autonomy, the freedom to make a choice and to take responsibility for that choice. In the West, individualism, autonomy, and choice are deeply embedded aspects of liberal democratic ideology. Among the Muslims too, the sense of individual choice and responsibility goes to the core of identity. The reward of the Garden and the punishment of the Fire are incomprehensible unless we accept that humans have the freedom to make individual choice. As Muslims we also have an embracing sense of Tawhid, by which the choices we make are already known by God. The relation between free will and pre-destination is a discussion well beyond the limited scope of this essay. What is important to this discussion is the recognition of the importance of individual choice. Westerners and Muslims alike have a utilitarian sense of social justice by which our highly prized freedom of choice is constrained by our responsibility to the community.

The pivotal point is that at the same time we value community, we also value the individual. There is an inherent contradiction here: a mutually beneficial association based on sameness is to arise out of the free choice of individuals, each of whom is different from the others. (Stone, 1992) This inherent contradiction creates a tension in us. On the one hand, there is that which we believe everyone in our community holds in common. If we see someone behaving in a way that calls into question this belief of ours, we may get upset. We may decide their behavior indicates someone is not a "real" Muslim, or is a "bad Muslim." Or we may decide, "If that is how Muslims behave, I will distance myself from them." On the other hand, there is that which we believe falls in the realm of our individual choice. If someone says something to us that calls into question this belief of ours, we may get upset. We may feel the other person is unduly harsh, or that they think we are a "bad Muslim." Or we may decide, "If that is how Muslims are going to treat me, I will distance myself from them." Or, we may quietly acquiesce to the situation in either case, and hold our distress within. Each of these possible responses to the tension between the ways we are like other Muslims and the ways we are different militates against the formation of a strong community.

The desire to be part of community, to belong to something larger than ourselves, runs deep within the human being. Alfred Adler (1870 - 1937), for a time a colleague of Freud, rejected the psychoanalytic "drive" theory, and gave primacy to the desire to be part of the whole as the foundation of his psychological theory. The German word Gemeinschaftsgefuhl means feeling of community, of belonging. For Adlerian psychologists this feeling of connectedness is both the index and goal of mental health.

This notion has intuitive appeal to us as Muslims. For the infant, connection to mother is a matter of survival. As the infant needs the umm, the Muslim needs the umma. And yet, as Abdelwahab Meddeb points out in The Malady of Islam (Meddeb, 2003), "The Islamic World has been unceasingly inconsolable in its destitution." Among the Muslims, considerable effort has been expended to understand the current plight of our community. This essay does not deal with the historical malaise of the Muslim Umma. Instead, this essay considers challenges to community that arise from the nature of the dominant society in which we live. These challenges affect all efforts at building and sustaining community that take place within our society, not just those made by Muslims.

Here in the United States, the national optimism De Tocqueville first remarked upon can now be found among many of the Muslims of America, exerting themselves to develop the Muslim Community in the United States. The 41st Annual ISNA convention was organized around the theme of "Dialogue, Devotion, and Development." It may be that increased awareness of the way in which the dominant society's organization places impediments on the development of vital communities may help to focus our efforts at community development. Without critical understanding, we may find that we are building only a simulacrum of community, that our work is producing a kind of "Islam Lite" rather than a community of Muslims full of the light of Islam.

The Value of Community

On the social, as distinct from the psychological level, community is valued for many reasons. It is through community that we have meaningful personal relations due to commonalties like ethnicity, language, and geographic area. Community brings with it a sense of common history, values, concerns, projects, mutual interests and obligations. Genuine community entails commitment to mutual welfare and acknowledgment of interdependence. Genuine community carries with it a sense of obligation and responsibility. Albert Hirschman has written a book called Exit, Voice, and Loyalty (Hirschman, 1970) in which he suggests that when things are not as we want them to be there are two general kinds of responses we may make. The first he calls exit. This is the characteristic response we make when, for example we don't like the service or food in a restaurant -- we stop going there. If some item we regularly purchase gets too expensive we may switch to an alternative. If we don't like our job, we may look for another. This is one of the advantages of free market choice, we are given the opportunity to express our displeasure by exit.

But in the domain of social relations, to exit when we don't like what's going on is generally only the choice of last resort. The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, made Hijra only after years of effort to call the Quraish to Islam. If there is a problem between friends, we typically give voice to the problem and try to bring about change in this way. If something about our community bothers us, we will tend to voice our displeasure and attempt to change it. It is reprehensible to treat people as though they were simply objects we can simply abandon when they no longer please us. In this way, social relations are not like the relations between customer and product. Today, however, our viewpoint is powerfully influenced by market forces (see Schwartz, 1994), and we may find that we treat our local masjid like it was simply another location in the market place, like restaurants, cinemas, shopping malls, hairdressing salons, etc. It starts to feel perfectly natural just to exit, to stop going to the mosque or look for another when something displeases us. The mosque becomes simply another object we can abandon when it no longer pleases us. For a closer look at how this happens, see Imam Zaid Shakir's article, Flight from the Masjid (Shakir, 2003). This choice to exit the focal point of our local Muslim community can easily happen even if the time we spend there when we do go is rewarding. There are so many claims on our time that we are forced to prioritize — and waiting around twenty minutes after the adhan for asr just may not make it to the top of our list.

Part of what we are seeing here is an effect of the society we live in. After all, "time is money." Unfortunately, living as we do in a technological system, all human behaviors are subject to the atomizing effects of the system, and reduced in the end to economic functions. This statement may not be intuitively obvious. For a powerful and comprehensive analysis of the totalizing narrative that comprises the technological system, see the work of Jacques Ellul. (Ellul's books on the subject include The Technological Society, 1964; The Technological System, 1980; and The Technological Bluff, 1990). As the drive for efficiency becomes dominant, social relations and institutions are threatened, including of course, community.

Today when we assign value to community, generally the kind of value we ascribe is spiritual, emotional or cultural. This makes community a value subject to lip service but for which real effort tends not to be expended. This takes places because in a technological system it is difficult to see what is gained by being part of community. The question is whether community has a value that is practical or economic. If community does not have practical or economic value it is of no value to a technological system. If "community values" are to be preserved simply for emotional or spiritual reasons, they will tend to be transformed over time to versions of these values that have economic function.

Consider the way that traditional communities made use of social gatherings. In a close-knit community the social interaction of community members provided entertainment for its members. The stories people tell each other relate to their community and contain instruction about the way of life that the community embraces. As a young Muslim, I recall entering a clearing in a date grove in Tunisia after Maghrib to find the men of the village seated close to one another, reciting Qur'an in unison in the moonlight. The gathering was aesthetically beautiful, emotionally moving, and spiritually uplifting. It was a beautiful celebration of common values that served to instruct, to reinforce community solidarity, and to provide a venue for social interaction. Think of the staying power and value in our vast body of Qasa'id and poetry like al-Busayri's al Burda, Rumi's Mathnawi, and the work of Hafiz and Iqbal. The social interaction in our traditional communities around song and poetry provided the Gemeinschaftsgefuhl, the feeling of community so important to the Adlerian psychologists. It provided instruction and entertainment, and it did so, by and large, with minimal economic cost. In fact, one of the hallmarks of traditional community is that life does not require cash to be a part of all social transactions.

This is another way of saying that traditional community is not dependent on a market economy. The community itself is an economy. The essayist Wendell Berry has written about such communities (Berry, 1987). Many of the economic assets of such communities were largely intangible. The culture of the community carried knowledge, attitudes and skills. It supported family and community coherence and depended on family and community labor. It had built into it respect for the bounty of the natural world and the majesty of the Creator. Character was built upon the shared wisdom of the community itself. These communities had economies that were enacted for the most part without being inscribed in the ledgers of accountants.

The line of thinking being pursued here invites objections based on the impossibility of "turning back the clock." However, is the very ease with which the phrase turning back the clock comes into mind is itself a symptom. The phrase is an example of the extent to which people living in a technological system develop a world view that is thoroughly dominated by technical, and as in this case, even mechanical metaphors. For a light read that looks at the way our notion of time has been transformed by technology, see Jeremy Rifkin's Time Wars (Rifkin, 1987).

The Commodification of Community Values

In a technological society, stories and songs and instruction become separated from one another, and each performs an economic function. Instruction is split off as a separate educational function, stories are split off as another industry (TV, movies), and singing and music as still another industry. Each becomes an economic function: paid teachers and private schools, movies and TV for stories, professional musicians who are part of a vast industry that sculpts and markets their music. However, as economic functions, the value content of education, stories, and music shift. Public schools have to fight for the tax dollars to keep them afloat, and to justify the expenditure of these dollars in economic terms. The stories we see on television or in movies are subject to a highly complex set of factors that shape what finally ends up on the screen. The music we consume is similarly shaped by its economic function. Inevitably, the forces of the market place reduce the values of the stories and songs to the lowest common denominators, and within the United States that means sex and violence. George Lucas portrayed this in a film he made as a student: THX1138 (Lucas, 1971). The film portrays a highly technical future society. Though not part of the plot line, Lucas' vision of future TV was telling: there are three television channels, one shows nothing but graphic violence, one shows nothing but pornography, and one shows nothing but stand-up comedy.

The process of atomization of the value of community into specialized roles that can be commodified extends well beyond education or entertainment. In our society, as much as 90% of the workforce is employed providing what may broadly be understood to be services. In order for the growing ranks of professional service providers to have work, there must be a growing number of identified "needs" to be serviced. As Big Oil needs crude, the service economy needs human problems. John McKnight argues that “The basic issue is professionalism itself, which is dependent upon the manufacture of need and the definition of new deficiencies.” (McKnight, 1996) As more and more professionals are around to service this proliferation of commodified needs, there is less reason for the members of a community to care for each other. "Why cook a meal for the elderly widow next door, Meals-on-Wheels has got it covered." Community values of caring for each other are inevitably eroded, because the provision of services can never equal the provision of caring. This is not to say that professionals don't care. But caring professionals work through institutions that deliver "care," and that care is carefully delimited by economic and organizational realities as well as scope-of-practice concerns.

The transformation of all value into economic value can take place even with our spiritual values. How many of us have strolled through the bazaar at the ISNA convention, for example, buying books or other products of which, in the end, we make very little use? We are attempting to consume Islam. Nor is this spiritual materialism (Trumpa, 2002) confined to products. We can be consumers of experiences as well. This can take place in quite subtle ways, or it may be as obvious as feeling "Islamic" after we've been to the ISNA convention as we return to a daily life saturated by interactions with the marketplace in one form or another.

Social Saturation and Community

Social saturation is a term used to refer to the proliferation of relationships. It refers both to face-to-face relationships and mediated relationships. Mediated relationships include those conducted through the telephone, email, correspondence, as well as relationships to media figures, authors, characters on television shows or in books, musical groups, etc. The concept is that with all the technologies of communications available to us, the numbers, varieties, and intensities of relationship increasingly fill our days. Our notion of self becomes populated with partial scripts arising from all these different relationships. The difficulties this can cause for our sense of our self as Muslims have been discussed elsewhere (Coburn, 2003). Here we are turning our attention to how social saturation affects our community. In doing so, we will be following the argument of Kenneth Gergen in his 1991 book, The Saturated Self.

The question here is not whether communities of mutually supportive individuals can sustain traditions they value. The question is whether communities of mutually supportive individuals can be sustained. Consider the effect of transportation technology: social mobility is increased, leading to families in continuous motion from one environment or job setting to another, and creating what Vance Packard has called a nation of strangers. (Packard, 1972) This leads to a deterioration of community with which many of us are familiar, a community in which neighbors are strangers, and a multiplicity of very different ways of living prevail. Within these communities are groups that struggle to maintain their identity, picking their way through the streets, the institutions, and the recreational locations that make up the "community." Major segments of the American population try to live behind these invisible walls. But the separation between groups doesn't work very well because of the pervasive presence radio, television, newspaper, magazines, novels, films, etc. which all serve to create mass consciousness. The technology unites large numbers of people into audiences for public events like concerts, political rallies, sports events, etc. Under these conditions it is only natural that as the strange views and ways of life of others become increasingly familiar, one's own traditional commitments gradually turn strange. Meanwhile, the "community" created by the developer so carefully to integrate schools, shopping, parks, homes, and so on is full of empty houses, a "bedroom community," in which people are seldom home.

Developing out of this, and facilitated by the very modes of communication that create the fragmentation of face-to-face community in the first place are communities linked mostly be words, images, and information shared primarily through electronic means. These "symbolic communities" do link people together and contribute to the kind of interdependence we recognize as constituting an important aspect of community. But with each new opportunity for electronic connection, the ties to location and face-to-face community of the traditional kind are weakened. The proliferation of electronic connections allows us to belong to many "virtual" communities, and changes the character of our relationships and our commitments. Jeremy Rifkin in his book Time Wars has remarked on the way the skills of social interaction tend to deteriorate as computer use increases. We become used to instant response, our interactions fragment as we become "multi-tasking."

Building Muslim Community

This narrative concerning the processes of social saturation and the commodification of needs can be understood as a story about how, as the number of our relationships grow, the richness of connection that exists within these relationships becomes attenuated. As the richness of connection in our relationships diminishes, our sense of belonging, of Gemeinschaftsgefuhl, is lost. How can we address these challenges as we seek to build a Muslim Community in North America?

Relationships among people are at the core of community. Building a strong community is based on building strong relationships. Strong relationships are characterized by richness of connection. Commodification of needs and social saturation tend to render our relationships one-dimensional. Many of the situations in which we find the behavior of another Muslim upsetting, or another Muslim finds our behavior upsetting, arise from the poverty of the connection between us. Let me give you an example that arose during workshops on consensus-building run by Dar al Islam, the Muslim organization for which I work. As an exercise during the workshop, we had a group of community leaders from different organizations in a major metropolitan area talk about how they felt Muslims in America should be involved with politics. There was quite a diversity of views: from the participant who felt that to register to vote was haram, to the participant who was engaged in the process of running for public office. These views were held passionately, and in a short time, the discussion became heated. We allowed this to continue for a bit, then stopped the discussion and introduced a second element to the discussion. This time, instead of talking about the position they held on the issue, participants were to talk about what life experiences had shaped to the position they held. The change in the discussion was dramatic. The participant who felt that to register to vote was haram talked about his minority status and the way government authorities in the bureaucracies and in the criminal justice system abused him and his people. The participant who was running for office talked about what it was like to live in a society where one could have no say in government and there was little to no opportunity to redress governmental wrongs. The two participants did not change their positions on the issue. They did, however gain respect for the authenticity with which the other participant held their position. This moved the participants to a place where each could validate the authenticity of the position of the other. By talking about their experiences around the topic under discussion, the relationship between the two participants was enriched. Their understanding of each other's experience increased the value of their relationship, and allowed them to place this value ahead of their differences about political participation. The bond of brotherhood between the two was strengthened.

This example speaks to the nature of unity in our community. We are arguably the most diverse Muslim community on earth. We have Muslims from all over the globe in North America. We are going to hold different positions on almost any topic one can imagine. But unity is not uniformity. To the extent that our relationships with each other are multi-dimensional, rich connections, our ability to privilege what we hold in common above our differences will be increased.

The Concept of Social Capital

The example from the workshop serves also to illustrate an important concept currently used by those thinking about ways to revitalize community. The concept is "social capital." The first round emphasized the positions people held, and arguments were presented in political or intellectual or religious terms. The second round of discussion used a narrative approach, encouraging people to tell their personal stories. This way of speaking allowed participants to connect with each other on a personal basis, and so increased social capital among the group. Among other definitions, this succinct one from Cohen and Prusak is apt: "Social capital consists of the stock of active connections among people: the trust, mutual understanding, and shared values and behaviors that bind the members of human networks and communities and make cooperative action possible." (Cohen and Prusak 2001: 4) Social capital works to ameliorate the tragedy of the commons: People often might be better off if they cooperate, each taking a fair share of the work. But each individual benefits more by shirking their responsibility, hoping that others will do the work. Social capital builds trust and trustworthiness. A third way it works is by widening our awareness of the ways in which our fates are linked.

While a thorough exposition of the concept is beyond this essay, and while use of the term "capital" carries a risk of enfolding the discussion in the larger discourse of commodification to which objections have been made above, the research on social capital seems clearly relevant to our task in building Muslim community. The term has become a focus of research and policy discussion with the work of Robert Putnam. See especially Bowling Alone: The collapse and revival of American community (2000), described in the Washington Post as "the de Tocqueville of our generation." For an introduction to the concept online, check out The Encyclopedia of Informal Education's entry at

The idea that civil society is built upon the complex web of personal relations among its members is one wholly in consonance with Muslim society. See, for example, Lawrence Rosen's "The circle of Beneficence" in his The Culture of Islam: Changing aspects of contemporary Muslim life ( 2002). Rosen writes about the importance of the negotiated ties of interdependency among people as the glue that holds Moroccan society together, and how political and technological factors interfere with these ties and spread corruption and social chaos (his translation of fitna). Key to the process of building social capital is the connective strategies by which people enrich their relations with each other. Such strategies rely on personal narratives. Storytelling turns out to be a crucial technique for building social capital in part because it is a way of recognizing people's interests and needs, not simply their ideals. In Better Together: Restoring the American Community (2003), authors Putnam, Feldstein and Cohen use case studies from across the United States to illustrate how organizing action on methods that emphasize the creation of social capital can have remarkable results in many different aspects of community life.

For the Muslim community, an approach to community development emphasizing the creation of social capital may be a preferred means of addressing our serious concerns with institutional stagnation, flight from the Islamic centers, atomization of community, and the discontent among youth Jeffrey Lang mentions in Losing My Religion: A Call for Help (2004).

If God

Invited you to a party

And said,


In the ballroom tonight

Will be My special


How would you then treat them

When you


Indeed, indeed!

And Hafiz knows

There is no one in this world


Is not upon

His Jeweled Dance


U.S. Speeds Up Bomb Delivery for the Israelis

The Envoy of God (peace be upon him) said, "The one who sells weapons during times of strife is damned to hell."

From the NY Times

WASHINGTON, July 21 — The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, American officials said Friday.

The decision to quickly ship the weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the Bush administration, the officials said. Its disclosure threatens to anger Arab governments and others because of the appearance that the United States is actively aiding the Israeli bombing campaign in a way that could be compared to Iran’s efforts to arm and resupply Hezbollah.

The munitions that the United States is sending to Israel are part of a multimillion-dollar arms sale package approved last year that Israel is able to draw on as needed, the officials said. But Israel’s request for expedited delivery of the satellite and laser-guided bombs was described as unusual by some military officers, and as an indication that Israel still had a long list of targets in Lebanon to strike.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Damascus, originally uploaded by kippefinger.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Religion, Violence, and the Modern World

From Seasons, the semiannual journal of Zaytuna Institute

by Sheikh Hamza Yusuf

Toward the latter days of indiscriminate violence, be like the first and better of the two sons of Adam who said, "If you raise your hand to kill me, I will not raise mine to kill you; surely I fear God, the Lord of the worlds."

Many of us, in the hustle and bustle of modern life, have little time for reflection; yet as these days are marred by violence of the worst kind, reflection — on the part of those who regard themselves 'religious' as well those who consider themselves 'secularists' — is more needed than ever. With continual terror in Iraq and Palestine, and now, most recently, with the bombings in Turkey, Muslims are confronted with the increasingly tragic reality of religious violence and the subsequent retaliations of secular violence.

A strange dual consciousness pervades the Muslim when it comes to modern violence. When Khalil Sarakiti, the Palestinian intellectual of the 40's and 50's reminded the Palestinian leadership of the importance of adherence to the highest principles of engagement in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, he remarked in his journal that they viewed it as romantic chivalry, incompatible with the realities of modern warfare. And sadly, this is the reality of modern man: expediency has won out over principle.

The modern Muslim has learned well the lessons of his secular counterpart. American military action rarely distinguishes between combatants and civilians. The Pentagon callously refers to them as 'secondary effects' or 'collateral damage.' When some Muslims use tactics of indiscriminate violence toward objects of hate, too often other Muslims are quick to point out that, 'They kill our innocents and expect us to sit by and watch.' Defenders of American foreign policy parry with, 'Collateral damage can never be equated with terrorism because we don't specifically target civilians and in fact attempt to avoid civilian casualties.' Apologetics for wanton killing of women and children on both sides nauseates anyone who considers the very real impact of innocent blood spilt so injudiciously.

Like all things in which humans engage, religion has many paradoxical aspects. On the one hand, it elevates our ideals and aspirations to the heavens themselves giving us such priceless principles as, "The entire Torah can be summed up in two statements: love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself; everything else is commentary"; "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you"; and "Taking one life unjustly is as if you have killed all of humanity." These are taken from the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths, respectively. Meanwhile, some adherents to each faith justify with their teachings the most heinous depredations against their fellow men. Jonathan Swift remarked, "We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another." Perhaps that is true; for many people, religion is no longer a solution to anything but very much part of the problem.

The great tragedy of modern religion is that it is now seen as a toxin polluting the waters of possibility. We who claim faith and commitment have too often made our faiths the objects of hatred. With our zealousness, we have driven away countless people who see the worst aspects of humanity embodied in religious peoples. For some of us, it is easy to write them off as skeptics, mockers, or secularists who just hate religion, but the truth is that most of them are not so. They are simply people who know intuitively that the behavior of those claiming to be religious is both inhumane and irreligious, and they seek other philosophies to guide them. They look to Epictetus or the Tao Te Ching or even Deepak Chopra, or they give up the search for meaning altogether, contenting themselves with film and music as fulfilling past-times. Organized religion, with its self-righteous pugnaciousness and its officious meddling in the affairs of others, has driven many moderns to relegate it to the dustbin of discarded ideas. The irony, of course, is that the religious people feel the secularists are the pugnacious ones forcing secularity down their throats, ignoring their most sacred beliefs or relegating them to a few minutes on shows such as Thought for the Day.

The more religion is marginalized, the angrier religious people get; the angrier they get, the more others want to marginalize religion, ad nauseam. We have found ourselves in a vicious cyclical clash between secularists, who, in many ways, abandoned the Englightenment project of a more humane world long ago, and religious utopians battling for a piece of turf in the modern world — both sides bitter, both sides with minorities that use indiscriminate violence to lesser and greater effectiveness, both sides becoming increasingly intolerant. Tragically, the very reason so many Europeans felt disillusioned with Christianity was the centuries of intolerance and pointless religious violence. The Muslims, on the other hand, were far less prone to internal religious violence, and the level of tolerance toward other faiths was unparalleled in the premodern world. Unfortunately, explosions in Riyadh, Karachi, Turkey, and countless other places show that violence and intolerance have become the paths of pursuit among religious thrill-seekers in much of the Muslim world. The unexpected side-effect is that it is not just non-Muslims that find Islam odious, but many modern Muslims are increasingly becoming disillusioned with Islam, blaming the behavior of the practitioners on the religion, seeking alternatives in other faiths or philosophies. I believe many Muslims are in deep denial about this, refusing to even consider it, but I am seeing its signs everywhere, and it troubles me deeply. Those of us who are committed to Islam should seriously ask ourselves if we are indeed representatives of the Religion of ar-Rahman, the Merciful: "The servants of the Merciful are those who tread lightly on the earth, and when ignorant people deride them, they reply 'peace'" — are we as the Qur'an so wonderfully describes the true servants of God?

Muslims are commanded to avoid backbiting, slander, lying, cheating, treachery, pride, anger, sloth, greed, and all of the other tragic qualities of beastly humanity. We must remember that much of the worst crimes we see in the world are simply our own sins magnified on a grander, more grotesque scale. The vice of setting aside our principles in small matters that apparently harm no one leads to the heinous enormities of our time as the vice continues while the scale increases. Religious people who set aside every true and universal religious principle in the name of religion are worse than any secular beast doing the same in the name of 'might makes right.'

The reason is obvious: one acts in the name of religion and causes others to hate religion; the other acts in the name of power and causes others to rightly hate the worst qualities of man. It has been said that a religious fanatic is someone who redoubles his efforts after forgetting his cause. I think a sounder definition is someone who cannot risk considering that his life's work has been meaningless; that his efforts have been in vain; that his victories are, in truth, defeats; and that his successes are utter and bitter failures. Violence is not a religious truth — it never has been, and it never will be. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, "Never desire to meet anyone in battle, but if ever forced to do so, be virtuous." He also said, "Kindness is never present in an act except that it embellishes it and is never removed from any act except that it defiles it." In addition, he said, "God gives with gentleness what He will never give with harshness."

The Qur'an speaks to the Prophet (peace be upon him), reminding us about his noble character: "It is a mercy from God that you were made gentle in nature, and had you been harsh and hardhearted, people would have fled from your presence." In a sound tradition narrated by Imam Tirmidhi, the Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said, Toward the latter days of indiscriminate violence, be like the first and better of the two sons of Adam who said, "If you raise your hand to kill me, I will not raise mine to kill you; surely I fear God, the Lord of the worlds." In an increasingly violent world in which the individual can now inflict harm that armies of the past were incapable of, religious people in particular must categorically reject and condemn any vigilante retaliations for injustices and question deeply the compatibility of modern warfare with religiously sanctioned military action that emanates from pre-modern just-war principles in the Abrahamic faiths.


Old door (1), originally uploaded by Mernas.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Subha seller

Sufi Dancing, originally uploaded by terry_h_weston.

Prayer in Sheikh Wad Bedur mosque


Istanbul, originally uploaded by aleyna.

entrance to Blue Mosque.

The Purpose of Study

From SunniPath Academy

by Imām Al-Zarnūjī

Intention is necessary in the study of science, since every deed is rooted in intention, as attested to in the words of the Prophet [SA], "Deeds [are measured] by their intentions." This is an authentic tradition. The Messenger of God [SA] also said:

How many are the deeds which bear the image of the deeds of this world but then become –through their good intention –among the deeds of the Hereafter! And how many are the deeds which bear the image of the Hereafter but then become –through their evil intention –among the deeds of this world!

It is necessary for the student in his quest for knowledge to strive for the pleasure of God, the adobe of the Hereafter, the removal of ignorance from himself and from the rest of the ignorant, the revival of religion, and the survival of Islam. For the survival of Islam depends on knowledge. And the disciplined life and piety are not complete when there is ignorance.

Imam Burhan al-Din, author of the Hidayah, recited a poem by an unnamed author:

An immoral man of learning is a great evil;
Yet a greater evil is an ignoramus leading a godly life.
Both are a great trial everywhere
to whomever clings to his religion.

One must intend [with knowledge] to being thankful [to God] for a healthy mind and a sound body; one should not, however, [intend] to attract people toward himself, or reap the vanities of the world, or obtain honors from the king, and the like.

Muhammad ibn al-Hasan said, "If the people, all of them, were my slaves, I would emancipate them and free myself from being their patron." This is because he who finds pleasure in knowledge and in acting according to it, rarely does he desire man’s [worldly] possessions.

Imam Qiwam al-Din Hammad ibn Ibrahim ibn Ismail al-Saffar al-Ansari recited a poem by Abu Hanifa:

Whoever strives for knowledge for the life to come
obtains great gain in righteousness.
But he is in utter loss who seeks [knowledge]
to obtain an advantage over people!

[This is true] with the possible exception of one who seeks position in order to command what is good and forbid what is evil, and in order to promote the truth and strengthen religion –but never in order to satisfy his ego and his desires. [The repression of selfish aims] becomes more possible the more [the learned] undertakes to enjoin what is good and forbid evil.

It is essential for one who strives for knowledge to reflect on this. One should seek knowledge with great [personal] assiduity and not apply it to this base, small, and perishable world. [As the poet said]:

This world is more worthless than the worthless,
And its lover is baser than the base.
It renders people deaf by its magic and makes them blind
so they become perplexed with no guide.

It behooves one who seeks knowledge not to debase himself by desiring what should not be desired; and [it behooves him] to abstain from that which degrades learning and its bearers. One should also be modest, for modesty lies between arrogance and self-abasement. Chastity, too, is like this, [that is, the mean between two extremes]. This can be learned from [the book] Kitab al-Akhlaq [A treatise on Human Character].

Imam Rukn al-Islam, who is known as al-Adib al-Mukhtar, recited for me a poem that he himself composed:

Indeed, modesty is a quality of the God-fearing,
and by it do the pious ascend [to sublime heights].
A wondrous thing is the wondering of the ignorant
about his condition, whether he is happy or wretched.
Or [his wondering] about how his life will end, or whether his soul
on the day [of his death] will descend or ascend.
Truly, pride belongs to our Lord, an attribute
peculiar to him. So avoid it and fear God.

Abu Hanifa yet said to his companions, "Make your turbans ample and enlarge your sleeves." He said this so that scholarship and its bearers will not be slighted [by people]. And it is compulsory for him who seeks knowledge to acquire the Kitab al-Wasiyya [the Bequest], in which Abu Hanifa wrote to Yusuf ibn Khalid al-Samti when he returned to his people. Our late teacher, Ali ibn Abi Bakr [al-Marghinani], commanded me to write out [Kitab al-Wasiyyah] upon returning to my country, which I did. He who teaches higher levels of knowledge and he who gives legal opinions [mufti] cannot dispense [with this book] in their dealings with people.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Tehran Bazaar

Tehran Bazaar, originally uploaded by ayat83.

Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism

From Edge

In "Digital Maosim", an original essay written for Edge, computer scientist and digital visionary Jaron Lanier finds fault with what he terms the new online collectivism. He cites as an example the Wikipedia, noting that "reading a Wikipedia entry is like reading the bible closely. There are faint traces of the voices of various anonymous authors and editors, though it is impossible to be sure".

His problem is not with the unfolding experiment of the Wikipedia itself, but "the way the Wikipedia has come to be regarded and used; how it's been elevated to such importance so quickly. And that is part of the larger pattern of the appeal of a new online collectivism that is nothing less than a resurgence of the idea that the collective is all-wise, that it is desirable to have influence concentrated in a bottleneck that can channel the collective with the most verity and force. This is different from representative democracy, or meritocracy. This idea has had dreadful consequences when thrust upon us from the extreme Right or the extreme Left in various historical periods. The fact that it's now being re-introduced today by prominent technologists and futurists, people who in many cases I know and like, doesn't make it any less dangerous".

And he notes that "the Wikipedia is far from being the only online fetish site for foolish collectivism. There's a frantic race taking place online to become the most "Meta" site, to be the highest level aggregator, subsuming the identity of all other sites".

Where is this leading? Lanier calls attention to the "so-called 'Artificial Intelligence' and the race to erase personality and be most Meta. In each case, there's a presumption that something like a distinct kin to individual human intelligence is either about to appear any minute, or has already appeared. The problem with that presumption is that people are all too willing to lower standards in order to make the purported newcomer appear smart. Just as people are willing to bend over backwards and make themselves stupid in order to make an AI interface appear smart (as happens when someone can interact with the notorious Microsoft paper clip,) so are they willing to become uncritical and dim in order to make Meta-aggregator sites appear to be coherent."

Friday, July 14, 2006

where knowledge begins

Along the Niger river #4, originally uploaded by foto_morgana.


Blossoms, originally uploaded by Cybjorg.


Door, Oman, originally uploaded by balavenise.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Cleveland Study Group Update

The Cleveland Study Group announced recently it has inititated an "Introduction to Sacred Law" class that will cover Kitab al-'Ibadat, which is also known as Kitab al-Akhdari written by Imam Abdur-Rahman Al-Akhdari of Algeria in the 10th century hijra (1512-1585).

"The Commentary of Kitab Al-Akhdari" written by Shaykh Al-Hajj Saad bin Umar bin Sa'eed Jalil Al-Futa Tori, a Malian scholar, who in 1971, wrote the commentary to address the issues of traditional scholarship and the relevance and reliability of traditional text.

Shaykh Al-Futa Tori undertook the arduous task of providing proofs from the Koran, Hadeeth and Consensus of the Rightly Guided Scholars to counter the tide of those of excessive verbosity and pomposity who were hurling abuses and accusations at the great scholars of jurisprudence (Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik, Imam Ash-Shafi'i and Imam Ahmad Hanbal and their ilk) and students of sacred knowledge.

We've been blessed to have Shaykh Mas'ud Laryea of Ghana teaching this ancient treatise on classical jurisprudence and clarifying many issues surrounding this brilliant tract.

After participating in the course, a participant should know the following:
  • Belief in God and what it entails
  • Belief in the Angels and what it entails
  • Belief in the Divine Books and what it entails
  • Belief in the Messengers and what it entails
  • Belief in the Last Day and what it entails
  • Belief in the Divine Decree, the good and bad of it and what it entails
  • Legal Rulings according to Sacred Law
  • Repentance and its conditions
  • Unlawful Matters
  • Types of Water that fulfill the requirements
  • Ritual Purity - Major and Minor impurities
  • The Monthly Cycle of Women and its matters
  • Post-Partum Bleeding and its matters
  • Ritual Prayer
  • How to tell the Times of Prayer
  • How to make-up Prayers
  • How to rectify the Prayer if one makes a mistake during the Prayer
  • What to do if the Imam makes a mistake during the Prayer
Place: Masjid Ummatullah, St. Clair and Blenheim (Cleveland, Ohio)
When: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays
Time: 9:05 p.m. - 10:35 p.m.

In addition, the study group is developing a three year curriculum in order to "educate, motivate and have a form of accountability."

This is what is has set-up so far:

To know before December 31, 2006 c.e.

  • To know a text in any of Juristic Schools (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i and Hanbali)
  • at an Introductory Level
  • Memorize Surat Al-Qadr (97) to Nas (114), along with Surat Al-Fatiha, Ayayt Al-Birr, Ayat Al-Kursi, the last 2 verses in Surat Al-Baqarah, and Surat Al-'Aala (87) with the rules of pronunciation.

To know before December 31, 2007 c.e.

  • To know a text in any of the Juristic Schools at an Intermediate Level
  • Memorize Surat Al-Tariq (86) to Alaq (96) with the rules of pronunciation.

To know before December 31, 2008 c.e.

  • Memorize Surat Al-Naba (78) to Al-Burooj (85) with the rules of pronunciation.
  • Memorize the first 10 hadeeth of Imam Nawawi's (May God be pleased with him) famous 40 Hadeeth.
  • Study the Shama'il At-Tirmidhi.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Islam, USA

A nice spotlight on Imam Magid of the ADAMS Center from November, 2005.

It's from TIME

IT WAS ON SEPT. 10, A DAY SHY OF THE fourth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, that Imam Mohamed Magid met terrorism's victims face to face. He was presiding at the funeral on Long Island for the daughter and son-in-law of Bangladeshi Americans from his Sterling, Va., mosque. The children, who were at work in the North Tower, perished in the Sept. 11 attack, but not until this past August had medical examiners identified enough of their charred tissue and bone fragments for the parents to hold a funeral.

Staring at the two wooden boxes covered with green embroidered cloth and surrounded by grieving family members, the Muslim cleric was gripped by both sadness and rage. "The terrorists who kill in the name of Islam claim they are the martyrs," Magid told TIME later, the anger still roiling him. "But the victims are the martyrs. The terrorists are the murderers, and God will deal with them on Judgment Day."

From his mosque in Virginia, Magid, like many of the some 600 full-time imams across the country, is fighting his own war against radicals trying to hijack his religion. For Magid that has meant not only condemning terrorism but also working closely with the FBI in battling it. He regularly opens doors for agents trying to cultivate contacts in his Muslim community, and he alerts the bureau when suspicious persons approach his congregation. That puts him in a precarious position: How does he maintain credibility as a spiritual adviser while, in effect, he is informing on fellow Muslims? To understand that balancing act, TIME spent two weeks following Magid as he raced from prayer to prayer, meeting to meeting, in the strange new world of American Muslim ministry.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Reed professor opens minds on Islam, culture

From The Oregonian

Great article that dispels the myth that Islam is monolithic.

Some excerpts:

"The main thing that I've learned from him is that Islam is whatever its adherents make of it," says Kigar, 22. "Interpretation is always based on a particular context. Reading the Quran as an outsider with today's perspective won't give a holistic view of what Islam is and already has been."

It is wrong, he says, to draw conclusions about Islam based only on one reading of the Quran, on the statements of a few Muslim leaders or on the culture of one group of believers. It is inaccurate to isolate an issue -- such as Western culture, democracy or the role of women -- and suggest that Muslims have one response to it.

"But I hear questions about whether Islam and democracy are compatible, or about whether Islam and women's rights are compatible," he says. "We have all these Muslims living in the United States, participating in a democratic society, and they are excited to do so. Why do we ask whether Islam and democracy are compatible?"

"What does it mean to treat American Muslims as non-Western when in actuality they are a part of American history?" he asks. Too often, Muslims and non-Muslims do not think of their own experience with each other as much as they respond to extremist views that are reflected by the media.

Jaame Mosque

Jaame Mosque, originally uploaded by Farhang .



Originally uploaded by entrelec.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Europe's response to the siege of Gaza is shameful

From the British paper The Guardian

Thank goodness for the Swiss. Alone in Europe, their government has dared to condemn what the Israelis are doing to Gaza. It is collective punishment, they say. It violates the principle of proportionality. Israel has not taken the precautions required by international law to protect civilians.

Inevitably, the bloggers are pouring out the usual irrelevancies about the role of Swiss banks during the Nazi period. But as the depository of the Geneva conventions, one of the key legal advances to emerge from the ravages of the 20th century, Switzerland has a duty to speak out.

Its statement stands in contrast to the European Union's shamefully muted voice. The Palestinians kill two soldiers and take one prisoner and, in response, power stations are blown up, sewage and water systems grind to a halt, bridges are destroyed, sonic booms terrify children day and night, and all this is inflicted on a hungry people who are under siege in what is effectively a huge open prison. The EU's response? Vague expressions of "concern" and calls for "restraint".

Violent Muslim radicals know they are heretical

An opinion piece by Karen Armstrong for the British paper Guardian Unlimited

It is unrealistic to hope that radical Islamists will be chastened by a rebuke from "moderate" imams; they have nothing but contempt for traditional Muslims, who they see as part of the problem. Nor are extremists likely to be dismayed when told that terrorism violates the religion of Islam. We often use the word "fundamentalist" wrongly, as a synonym for "orthodox". In fact, fundamentalists are unorthodox - even anti-orthodox. They may invoke the past, but these are innovative movements that promote entirely new doctrines.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Tariq Ramadan: Muslims need to stop behaving like victims

From the UK newspaper THE INDEPENDENT

An excerpt:

In this climate, arguments that were previously the sole province of the extreme right have found space within mainstream political discourse. The past is reinterpreted so as to deny Islam any place in the creation of Western identity which is now frequently redefined as purely Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian.

Meanwhile many politicians have opted for the dangerous rhetoric of defending "Western values" and seek to impose strict limitations on "foreigners", while at the same time putting in place a whole apparatus of new security laws to fight terrorism. Hardly a Western society has been spared its own debate on questions of "identity" or "integration", but the implicit terms of the debate are often reduced to a distinction between two entities: "We, Westerners" and "They, the Muslims".

Muslims have clear-cut alternatives faced with the new reality: they can adopt the attitude of the aggrieved victim or they can confront their difficulties. Nothing will change until they accept full responsibility for themselves, become constructively critical, and self-critical; until they respond to the creeping "evolution of fear" with a firmly grounded "revolution of trust".

Monday, July 03, 2006

a reflection for the day

From the blog SOME : Wisdom

Fear less, hope more,
eat less, chew more,
whine less, breathe more,
talk less, say more,
hate less, love more,
and all good things
will be yours.
[Swedish proverb]


Originally uploaded by dwrawlinson.

El ropabejero

El ropabejero
Originally uploaded by Ram!.


Bamako - sur le fleuve Niger
Originally uploaded by Alexbip.

flowers in Amman

Pink Ring
Originally uploaded by Husam.

Samarqand in Spring

Samarqand in Spring
Originally uploaded by Katsura.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Communities

How We Can Break the Vicious Cycle of Broken Communities, Broken Families, and Broken People in Order to Unify and Strengthen Our Communities

The Text:
Risaalah lil-Amraad Shaafiyah Fiha Nasihah lil-Aghraad Kaafiyah

The Great West African Scholar, Statesman, and Nation Builder
Amiru'l-Mu'mineen Muhammad Bello ibn al-Mujaddid Shaykh Uthman ibn Fodiyo

The Teachers:
Shaykh Adil Woods
Amir Ibrahim Bilal
Ustath Muhammad Abdul-Haqq
And Others...

The Venue:
The Philadelphia Masjid
4700 Wyalusing Avenue,
Philadelphia, PA 19104

The Annual ar-Rawdah Gathering is one of the Sankore' Institute's many educational initiatives. There are many deen intensive programs and conferences that are organized these days but their advertising methods, prices, locations, and durations slam the door on completing scholarly texts with qualified teachers for most indigenous Muslims. The methodology of the renowned West African scholar-warrior, Shaykh 'Uthman ibn Fodiyo, was to bring Sacred Knowledge directly to the people- he went to them, met them where they were, and elevated them with his words, actions, and states.

The Rawdah has been primarily designed to be a means for America's large, urban, indigenous Muslim population to become illuminated and liberated slaves of Allah the Exalted and to give them and their communities easy access to some of the righteous scholars of this age and the guidance, barakah (spiritual power), divine mercy, and spiritual light that descend in the presence of such scholars and the study of their works. The Rawdah offers all people a unique deen intensive experience centered around studying Sacred Knowledge, worship of Allah the Exalted, and Islamic martial arts training. Students at the Rawdah keep company and study classical Islamic texts with authorized and qualified teachers who are themselves linked in chains of scholars that extend to Prophet Muhammad, the Last Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace).

By means of the Rawdah we intend to serve the entire Muslim community by facilitating the traditional transmission of the empowering sciences of Iman (Islamic Belief), Islam (Islamic Law), and Ihsan (Spiritual Purification) using the blessed books of Shaykh 'Uthman ibn Fodiyo's family and the sixty-three golden chains of transmitted sacred knowledge gathered by them. Iman, Islam, and Ihsan comprise the Prophetic Science of Excellent Living that enables humans to awaken to their spiritual selves and thereby live, die, and rise from their graves with humility, dignity and grace, Allah willing. The proper transmission of these sciences is absolutely necessary to firmly establish the religion of Allah the Exalted in our hearts, homes, and communities with clarity and wisdom in this dark age where the straight and wide path of the Prophetic Model has become obscured.

Success Is With Allah!